Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Reversal of Fortunes

Any regular readers, or my followers on Twitter, or Facebook, may well have noticed that I’ve not been entirely active of late.

Hardly published anything – or tweeted- or anything else for that matter.

You may be wondering why.

Well here goes …

The school which I’m Head of – a special school for children with severe learning difficulties – was alerted that we were about to receive an OFSTED inspection. Not unexpected – a little earlier than we would have liked – but nothing we shouldn’t have been able to handle.

Except we didn’t – we fell foul of what in OFSTED speak is called a limiting judgement – certain areas of the inspection don’t just impact on that particular section – but on lots of other areas too – and to cut a long story short we ended up being served with “A notice to improve” – basically this means that you have 8 months in which to sort things out in.

Trouble is, this is not a good thing for a school, or for a Headteacher. It’s not good either for a local authority – and my particular local authority have quite a tough stance – if a school enters a “category” – then they generally expect a change of leadership. A bit like a football team missing out on a trophy really.

So a few weeks on, and here I sit, having resigned my position, and having had my life turned upside down.

Devastated ? It doesn’t even come close.

Now I could wax lyrical about the unfairness of the OFSTED system, about how I’ve been mistreated by my authority. I won’t though – I was sure that I wouldn’t make mileage out of my position in school before this happened – and I’m not going to start now. Suffice to say I feel at a very low ebb, and more than a little embarrassed at having to tell people what’s happened.

It’s been a year of incredible ups down for me – a year in which I met the Prime Minister, in which I had cabinet ministers reading my blog, a year in which only a few weeks ago I chatted with Education Secretary Ed Balls at a reception for successful Headteachers on the House of  Commons terrace. Now he’s not Education secretary – and I’m not, for the moment, a successful Headteacher.

So what for the future ?

Well I start again – I look for another job. I have no  millions to fall back on like David Laws, nor have I reached any substantial pay off agreement like Rafa Benitez.

I do have optimism though, and I’m not downhearted about the future. I know that I’ve delivered some excellence to my schools, and my pupils in the past, and I know that I’ll achieve good things in the future.

Perhaps this might be the opportunity for me to make that change of career that I never would have made – maybe I’ll get into politics after all – who knows ?

In the mean time if anyone knows of any jobs that need doing – I’m your man !


June 17, 2010 - Posted by | education, Family |


  1. Look after yourself, take things slow and bounce back when you’re ready.

    A friend of mine has had their school do poorer than expected in an inspection recently. Though she wasn’t personally inspected, her superiors had put a load of work her way to make themselves look better. It’s stressful and I’m not convinced that Offsted really get a clear idea of how a school runs usually.

    I’m impressed with the way you’ve handled it in your post (and your life). Though am sad it is the case.

    Comment by Pamela | June 17, 2010 | Reply

    • I do hope she wasn’t one of my teachers ! Thanks for your kind words.

      Comment by northernheckler | June 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. I work in schools although I am not a teacher. I am shocked to read your story. Of course we want the best education possible for our children and clearly the headteacher is the main influence at any school but the absolute focus on performance at all costs with the headteacher carrying the can at a personal level just seems out of proportion at every level. Schools are complex organisations, people are slow to change, poor performance and bad practice take a long time to tackle. There does not appear to be much evidence of similar penalties for private sector managers, resignation is not much in evidence… I have read your output and enjoyed it since I first came onto social media a few months ago. You strike me as being a strong individual with a positive mindset and I am sure you are as well equipped as anyone to deal with what is clearly a tough situation. In any case I wish you lots of luck for the future and I hope that this particular cloud turns out to have a silver lining after all. Good Luck.
    John McGregor

    Comment by thevaleman | June 17, 2010 | Reply

  3. So sorry to hear this. Sending you my very best wishes, I’m sure you will not be resting on your laurels for too long.

    Comment by Tracey Cheetham | June 17, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks Tracey – Don’t let it put you off teaching. It’s still a great job.

      Comment by northernheckler | June 17, 2010 | Reply

  4. Very sorry to hear aboutyour situation. I hope something turns up real soon. You must have done things right to be able to look back with some pride in your past achievements so there is hope for the future,
    Whatever happens I wish you well.

    PS I hope you keep writing your blogs as I, and I’m sure many others, enjoy reading them 🙂

    Comment by Ian Carnegie | June 17, 2010 | Reply

  5. Northern Heckler, thank you for your post. The school my children attend have been expecting OFSTED for the past year, the panic and paranoia regarding the un-expected visit is visible from both the headmaster and teachers alike. My children go to a great school, love their friends and teachers alike. The fact that OFSTED may catch them on the back foot does not register as a fault on there ability to teach. I know our headmaster would do the same on such a visit as yours and hope that you still have the fight in your stomach to carry on such a rewarding role. All the best Northern Heckler. x

    Comment by Jo Platt | June 17, 2010 | Reply

    • Sadly I’m not likely to be able to get another Headship any time soon – hopefully I’ll get something just as rewarding though. Thanks for your comments

      Comment by northernheckler | June 17, 2010 | Reply

  6. really sorry to hear this – hope you can come back from this and remember all the great things you’ve done for your pupils. Such an unfair system and inspectors often have no recent experience at the coal face and yet they can make or break someone’s career – appalling. (((hugs)))

    Comment by anpa2001 | June 17, 2010 | Reply

  7. So very sorry to hear this – seems so unjust. Do hope that you find something deserving of your obvious talents and passion very soon.

    Comment by SuperJules84 | June 17, 2010 | Reply

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brian McGuinness, nilsinela boray. nilsinela boray said: Please read my blog – it will explain why I've been off the scene for a while : Reversal of Fortunes: […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Reversal of Fortunes « Northernheckler's Blog -- | June 18, 2010 | Reply

  9. That’s an appalling way for an LA to behave over a notice, especially one artificially generated by OFSTED’s perverse assessment procedure; speaks to both the counter-productively defensive manner in which LAs often behave, and the stupidity of the existing regulation & monitoring regime.

    Hope you find something soon.

    Comment by Matthew Taylor (MTPT) | June 18, 2010 | Reply

  10. This seems so unjust, and I doubt very much that this is a good thing for the pupils or teachers. I can only echo what others have said, in that I am sure that this is a great loss, and I very much hope that your talents and passion for the job are snapped up quickly!

    Comment by Claire Spencer | June 18, 2010 | Reply

  11. I can only echo the echos, hope you fare well soon.

    Comment by Thomas Byrne | June 19, 2010 | Reply

  12. On the one hand, this sounds like a personal tragedy for someone dedicated to the cause of education. On that basis, I extend my genuine sympathy.

    On the other hand, as you flaunt your pride at having voted Labour on may 6th, I do hope you now wake up to the political stockholm syndrome you are suffering from.

    Best of luck.


    Comment by Al Jahom | June 19, 2010 | Reply

  13. I am so late coming to this news and for that I am sorry. I wonder how you are adjusting now? (Although America sure helps the brain shift gears). I am sure I will not be alone in wanting to know how this enforced change is for you now.
    My very best wishes to you and your wife.

    Comment by ramnaslady | August 15, 2010 | Reply

  14. Being a new reader of your blog, I’ve just seen this and it’s a sad tale- one limiting judgement and a school’s name is dragged through the mud. Do not pass go etc. For all the faults of my LA we rally round any schools that are in a category and we treasure our HTs, even the difficult ones! Hope everything works out.

    Comment by citizenr | September 14, 2010 | Reply

    • My LA are just too proud of their stars. They’re not interested in what’s the best thing, what’s the quickest and least risk to their stars. Hoping to sort some employment out in the next few weeks – a few irons in the fire. Thanks for dropping by, and for your support !

      Comment by northernheckler | September 14, 2010 | Reply

  15. More than welcome and good luck!

    Comment by citizenr | September 16, 2010 | Reply

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