My son returned to school to-day following the summer break. Like many other children he skipped through the school gates with a sense of forbearing, optimism and excitement. The latter two due to catching up with his friends, learning new “stuff” (as he described it this evening) but the former due to a degree of uncertainty: who will he be sat next to; who will be in his learning group; will the new children be friendly and all the other world-weary insecurities of a 7-year-old!
Behind the pressing reassurance of my son lies an educational landscape that is changing. The Academies route is now clearly established and pursued by many. Free Schools are the latest “sexy” creation. There has been mixed reviews of this new “monster” with a battle between those who argue it will raise standards and provide flexibility while others contest that they will be elitist, not in an Etonian type way, but in a pushy middle class two working parents look after my children type way. Is this meeting the needs of modern society or excluding the lower classes who may not need or see the need for such flexibility?
It could be a topic for a social science dissertation!
What fails to be reported, though, is news of the not so sexy schools, who plough on with the support of the local authority. Some of these schools perform heroically, either by producing fantastic results or by battling on in very testing conditions. For example, there are a number of local schools in my area who consistently deliver excellent Ofsted results.
The LA continue to provide support and guidance to these schools. Individual public sector workers demonstrating a real committment to the cause of the schools and buy in to the vision and implementation of betterment plans. Public sector bashing can be seen as fair game by many with (it is argued) their ludicrously large pensions, un-business like flexi time working hours, un-pressurised environment and the such like. This may be the case but there remains some stoic and conscientious civil servants doing the right thing by our schools and our children.
Head teachers and their staff equally deserve praise for enabling the other, less exciting educational model to fly!!!
You may have read my previous blog entitled ICT and No Cash! Since posting that, I have undertaken a Governors visit and spent an afternoon at school talking to the teacher in charge of ICT, learning about the school plans and most importantly watching and listening to the children as they use their computers.
I had the privilege of meeting three 10 year olds whose remit was to answer any questions that I may ask regarding ICT. Apart from the fact they were all utterly charming what knocked me over was how enthusiastic they were about the use of ICT. This should not be a real shock as each new generation is far more advanced and at ease with technology than the preceding one. But it was something more than that!
The head of ICT had created tasks and exercises which excited these youngsters. The result being an infectious enthusiasm to use ICT and to develop their skills while performing educational tasks covering a wide spectrum of subjects: maths; comprehension; design; and grammar to name but a few.
They say that troops are carved in the image of their leader and credit has to be given to the ICT head for magically whipping the children up into a learning frenzy.
The school have decided to introduce the Merlin system next year and this is being flirted with at the moment. I am sure that my school is not the first to do so.
Can I ask those of you who have experience of Merlin to let me know what you think of it? The benefits that is provides?Any implementation issues? Any ambushes that I should know about? Do the parents, children and teachers all use and rely on it?
I can see great potential in Merlin but I want to be certain that the magic being performed by the ICT head is not tempered, for whatever reason, by wasting time on a dead-end project. I do not want the infectious enthusiasm to wane!
I have recently been nominated to be the ICT Governor. Our Ofsted report generally highlighted good use of ICT with sound policies but there were one or two areas for minor improvement.
My beef is this – how is one able to improve the use of ICT with no funding?
The only resource available to me (apart from my own time and I am not an IT geek!) is the time of the teacher responsible for ICT. Teachers are generally being squeezed already and are spread too thinly. This does not mean that they do not give up a considerable amount of their own time to maximise the learning experience of the children and to invest in other life skills and coaching. The teachers at my school do this and I assume this is the pattern across the country.
I have looked at TeachersTV http://www.teachers.tv/ but cannot find anything to help me – my school is a primary school.
This blog is therefore part rant and part cry for help.
Thank you for reading the rant but if you have any links or tips on how to improve ICT in a primary school with no cash I would like to hear from you.
The (not so new) government has now been in power for a number of weeks. It’s first budget looms large next week.
I am sure that all governors will fear the axe wielding on educational budgets.
My limit experience of the FGB is that schools tend to have to work very hard to function within their budgets. Additional pupils mean additional money and this is the focus of some schools. Increase bums on seats and increase the budget.
Obviously this is risky as one has to consider the expected demand for school places in each particular school. Outstanding Ofsted reports will undoubtedly help.
As a Partner in a Law Firm I am well versed in the budgeting process and the pressures to meet or beat the budgets. The difference is that I can influence the firm’s income by marketing, client care and relationship management or a strategic change in the work types undertaken or by curtailing expenditure. Schools do not, in my view, have the same discretion to influence cash flow.
But what happens if Chancellor George cuts our budgets? Will this mean that capital investment projects will have to be postponed or cancelled? Will it take its toil on teaching assistants or teaching staff?
Will volunteer fundraising become an essential element of school finance?
Will it force schools to consider Academy status merely to increase their funding?
We will find out soon enough!
When I am not entranced by the machinations of school governorship I fill my time at work as a Partner of a leading Bath law firm, Mogers.
I also write for our award-winning magazine, the latest copy of which has been published as seen below.
My IT team are working on pdf versions of the magazine which will be accessed via the website. I will let you know.
For now if you would like to receive a copy, contact me here.
It is a shame that there is no accord between our politicians and the leaders of our schools, our head teachers, on the basic principle of SATS. How they work, how they benefit the children, or not, and why the curriculum suffers as a consequence, or not! We are all familiar with the arguments.
Our Head has decided to strike in principle but from a practical point of view feels that to action this would be to the detriment of the children. Both in terms of immediate disadvantage against those schools who do the SATS but also not wanting to fail the expectations of the children. There is also a life lesson here, I think, about having to do stuff that you may not want to do – the not to duck out when faced with something unpalatable is not an option view! . So our SATS are going ahead.
This raises an interesting dichotomy for all Heads. Do they put their own views and beliefs before those of the children on this occasion? Or any occasion?
Could strike action be planned well in advance to prevent the cancellation of the SATS, so alternative arrangements could be made. This would cause great inconvenience but maybe not the desired disruption.
Also the Heads are in an invidious position. If they strike, they run the risk of confrontation with parents and governors. If they do not, they run the risk of alienation by their peers locally and their staff.
To levy a sanction against a Head for the strike would jeopardise any goodwill that exists between the Head and the governors. Ed Ball’s guidance on this although possibly technically correct is not helpful from a practical point of view. Temporary suspension of the Head will not be good for the school short, medium or long-term.
So governors have to deal with this mess. Oh what to do?
It is a bit like tossing a coin, except heads I lose and tails you lose too!
I applied to become Governor of a local primary school last autumn. This was with a view to contributing to the community and discharging my sense of moral civic duty. It is a small village school just outside Bath that has a reputation for punching well above its weight in terms of academic results and pastoral care.
I live in the village and my 5 year old son attends the school. This is a pattern that is repeated throughout the country – Individuals wanting to “do something” that is selfless by focusing on their child or children’s school. An ironic oxymoron if ever there was one!
I missed the first meeting due to knee operation. I was then in-undated with paperwork for the second one.
Solicitors are accused of using legal jargon to justify their expertise but just try understanding the language of education. I think acronyms were invented just to satisfy the educational need to confuse ordinary people who become governors; like some sort of “governor baiting”.
This should be made illegal!
The meeting started on time and finished on time, which as meetings go is a good thing. I asked some pertinent “strategy” questions about objectives and direction and Ofsted (an educational word meaning the people who assess the school and tell you if it is rubbish or not) which were not particularly well received. Now it was me who was talking a different language – bad language!
I left the meeting feeling a little disappointed with the lack of clarity which I derived from the answers to my questions.
The next meeting is in three weeks time.
And by the way the school has just received an “outstanding” Ofsted report. Outstanding is an educational establishment word I can understand.
So what the hell do I know?
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