I've invented a new way to grade schools. It goes like this:

At end of the scale you've got '1'. Next to that is 'C'. After that is 'Square' and finally 'Blue'. So the new grading goes: 1, C, Square, Blue. It's good isn't it?!

No! I hear you mutter. No it's not. Really? Why not? What could be simpler? Four simple grades to communicate the results of an inspection; to let everyone know how a school is doing. A shorthand to judgement and information to help parents choose where to live.

Oh. They're not from the same category you say. Ah, I see. It should be all numbers or all letters or all colours or shapes to have any meaning and consistency. Ok. Fair point. I'll have another go. How about this one:

Outstanding - Good - Requires Improvement - Inadequate. There. Any better?

No! NO! you say. Same problem?

Oh yes, I see. The opposite of 'outstanding' is 'mundane', commonplace, that's a scale of presence, how much a thing appears different to others, I see. 'Requires improvement' goes all the way along its own scale to 'doesn't require improvement'. So that's assessing need. 'Good' offsets 'bad' (which are moral and ethical judgements) and 'inadequate' is the opposite of 'adequate', describing quality. Presence, needs, ethics and quality. Four different scales mixed up into one. Hmm, that doesn't work as a meaningful system does it.

Ok. Let me have one more think. I'm going to have 3 grades and they go like this:

Very effective - Effective - Not Effective Yet

Effective means doing the right thing = fully preparing children for their futures. The grade is simply that. Would that work? Would that be a better way? An internally congruent and criteria-referenced summary?

No. No it won't work, I tell myself. Not unless we start printing it on banners outside schools, ignoring any other scales out there and agreeing on exactly what 'effective' means.

But maybe I've got this wrong. Maybe the single word grading is not part of a sliding scale of achievement. Maybe it's just a ready shorthand telling you all you need to know about a school without having to dig any deeper. Yes. That'll be it. So it's like describing a person in a single word. He's phlegmatic. She's pusillanimous. They're sycophantic. And that's all they are. Hmm, this might just catch on. It's going to save time and words and lots and lots of thinking.

Or maybe we should do what the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) do. You don't get a requires improvement nuclear power station. Or an outstanding one for that matter. Teams from different facilities carry out extended onsite visits and engage in deep critical dialogue about improving practice to meet standards. A deep professional dialogue, Yes. I'll go with that as a new way to grade schools: by the quality of professional dialogue. Does that work?

And this blog? I rate myself blue.