The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

John Viner

John is a full-time writer, teacher trainer and consultant with Adept Education Associates. He served for 28 years as a primary headteacher and has led five schools including a successful training school and a large coastal school. He has inspected for Ofsted for well over a decade.

Latest blog posts

John Viner

From educator to regulator: what you need to know about the new HMCI

What will Amanda Spielman make of the Wilshaw legacy? John Viner suspects there may be change in the air. Ofsted's new chief inspector, Amenda Spielman. Picture credit: gov.uk When the former education secretary, Nicky Morgan selected Amanda Spielman to be successor to Sir Michael Wilshaw as Her...
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John Viner

A new school year, a reshaped DfE?

The aftermath of the general election saw several top jobs in education change hands, but what hope does a revamped department give for the future? When Theresa May called the general election for June, Optimus asked me what my three wishes would be for future education policy. They were: to...
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John Viner

Still marching in: the continuing growth of faith schools

In today’s pluralistic society, what role should religious education play? John Viner thinks that looking backward may help us look ahead. Since its earliest days, the provision of education in England and Wales has been a strange partnership between church and state, between the religious and the...
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John Viner

When fast-track adoption comes off the rails

When it works, the fast-track adoption route can save prospective parents a lot of hassle. But when it doesn't, schools are the first to see the emotional consequences. Angela and Darren are a childless couple. Having exhausted all other possibilities, they started fostering for the local authority...
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John Viner

Staff retention means keeping the right people on the bus

A long and costly recruitment cycle is just one of the things a school has to endure if they can't keep their eggs on the bus - and their foxes at bay. At the sharp end of budget matters, school business managers are likely to have a very good idea of the cost of recruiting a new member of staff...
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John Viner

Term-time holidays: the verdict is in

The Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Jon Platt case highlights again the importance of dealing with term-time holidays - though we're yet to hear the last of this legal tussle. I have previously examined the debate surrounding term-time absences. In this update, I consider what happened in...
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John Viner

When the whistle blows...

Reporting malpractice in the workplace is now not only acceptable, but expected. What do school staff need to know, and who can they trust? Source: Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007 Few people would know the name of Dr Stephen Bolsin had he not become famous – some might say infamous – for making...
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John Viner

Voluntary but unvalued: the crisis in governor recruitment

When governors are so often blamed for poor inspection judgements, is it any wonder that schools struggle to get committed volunteers through the door? When preparing for a Section 48 inspection I have to read a number of documents, including the school’s most recent Ofsted report. Recently, I...
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John Viner

The inequality of deferred entry

Deferring entry for summer-born children may work for some, but not for others. It is time to be absolutely clear about what admissions authorities can and cannot do. My twin grandsons were born in August. Bright though they are, when they are due to start school – when they just turn four – their...
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John Viner

What's so bad about term time holidays?

Many headteachers are troubled by the pressure to refuse parents term time holidays. This regulation is not only problematic to schools, it is unpopular with parents and an ongoing niggle to the DfE. Clear link between absence and attainment In 2011, Education Secretary, Michael Gove commissioned...
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John Viner

The perils of school-based initial teacher training

Faced with declining candidate quality for teaching posts, we need to consider the variability of initial teacher training (ITT) and how it might be adding to our recruitment woes. The most recent Teacher Recruitment Index from the Times Educational Supplement reports that headteachers are unhappy...
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John Viner

Facing up to staff absence: what can you do?

Worrying absence level statistics suggest that effective planning and monitoring are more important than ever. Not too long ago, a popular daily newspaper bewailed the fact that ‘15,000 teachers go sick every day ’, going on to blame stress and ministerial meddling. So, here’s a question for you:...
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John Viner

Are schools facing a recruitment crisis?

Faced with a dwindling supply of teachers and school leaders, we must accept that schools are facing severe recruitment problems. Crisis? What crisis? Are teacher recruitment problems myth or reality? Ask schools minister, Nick Gibb, about the teacher recruitment crisis and he is likely to tell you...
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John Viner

National funding: new broom, old cobwebs

For most school business managers, the most immediate and urgent concerns will surround funding and it’s important to appreciate that nothing is going to change in the immediate short term. What, you may ask, happened to the much-vaunted National Funding Formula promised from 2017? Details of the...
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John Viner

Understanding Ofsted monitoring visits

Monitoring visits from Ofsted changed under the new framework. We look at the differences and what you can now expect. School inspection is currently set out in legislation through the Education Act 2005. In this act, the regular two-day inspection is described in section 5 and ‘other inspection’...
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