As educators, our core purposes will be around providing the skills and knowledge, in doing so leading to the best possible life opportunities for our pupils; I know mine certainly is.
I’ve been thinking deeply about the ‘our’ in our pupils. Who are they? Who do we serve? Is it the pupils within our own classrooms? Is it the pupils within our own schools? Or are ‘our pupils’ the pupil body as a whole.
‘You are not leaders within you classrooms and schools.
You are leaders within *our* profession’
Hannah Wilson @TheHopefulHT
With this in mind, what is the essence of collaboration? I don’t mean the collaboration within your organisation, I mean collaboration across the local to the international community to benefit the pupils we all serve.
This sounds uncomfortable, even for me as I type, I feel myself wincing at the idea. I was trained and I practised during the of my whole career under the era of league tables.
Let me ruminate around this;
What is the point of an ‘open evening’? School A. pulls out all the stops, invites prospective parents to the school in a hope to win the best crop of pupils from the community. Leaving the less able crop to the Schools B through Z.
Presumably, this leads to better a nicer teaching environment, better outcomes, leadership is allowed to flourish, recruitment and retention issue become easier to manage, This then leads to school A becoming more desirable; through a better OfSTED grading, which leads to house prices rising, attracting more affluent families to the area meaning this process then propagates.
School A. is now the go-to, first choice, school; Great!
What now happens to schools B-Z, even more importantly what happens to the community who are served schools A-Z?
How does any of the above serve the community as a whole?
From a community perspective; schools all serve the same pupils, and every pupil deserves the best possible life chances.
Why introduce a competitive nature to state education? There is the competition drives change argument; I agree schools are innovating to get ahead of the race; however, this still begs the question how does this serve the whole community?
In my training year, I suggested collaborating with a local school. I remember my line manager scoffing, telling me that we want our pupils to perform better than the pupils at local schools as that would be that mean that our results would be higher than theirs.
Imagine if we abolished that mode of thinking, what could we achieve together?
1. Shared capital resources across the community.
A Science laboratory, a coach/minibus, a sports hall, etc. How do we justify schools not sharing their resources (especially when they are not being used)? When the school next door is in need or even worse paying for them.
2. Shared teaching resources across skills.
If you serve a community why wouldn’t you share resources with teachers who also serve the same community? The same is true for school trips, school events, revision sessions, external speakers all could be completed together for bulk discounts.
3. Shared teachers across schools.
When interviewing two great Physics teachers, you hire one and pass the details of the other to a local school, this is used to happen under the old LEAs, now collaboration on this level is unlikely to exist due to the competitive nature of education. Now let’s take it one step further, a school has 3 great Physics teachers and another has none. Send one across. As we serve a community, school teachers are also a resource for that community.
4. Shared CPD and staff shadowing
Where opportunities don’t exist in one school, let staff take the responsibility in another; yes you may lose leaders as they are taken out of your school but the community/profession doesn’t lose them.
5. Teachmeets and JPD across schools
In every school, I have ever worked is a range of differing talents from pockets of amazing practice to teachers who need rudimental support. The nature of CPD and INSET rarely cater for everyone. However, imagine looking CPD as a regional endeavour with a joint CPD pot; the possible modes of delivery excite even me as I type.
6. Evaluation and School Improvement
Putting OfSTED out of business. The best people placed to judge and hold a school accountable and provide context-specific support are the local schools. There is not one function do OfSTED perform which could be completed by local regional schools.
7. Pupil experiences across schools (instead of managed moves and movements to fit the pupil’s skills)
Managed moves and permanent exclusions, after the fines and appeals those very same pupils either end up in local schools or they end up in alternative provision. ALL PAID OUT OF THE SAME BUDGET. Let’s just stop the bureaucracy, cut out the middle person make the whole thing more efficient.
There is a similar open day process with schools key stage 5; Instead of fighting over sixth form students because of the funding they bring, centres of excellence for subjects could be created and pupils could move fluidly around centres.
8. Greater link primary, secondary and sixth form provisions.
In my experience, the pastoral transition between key stage 2 and 3 is usually completed really well. However the academic transition is often overlooked, I’d postulate this is due to the hierarchical nature of schools (a conversation for another day). Can you imagine a local school system where secondary school teachers offer their expertise to primary and primary to secondary? Magic.