There is increasing messianic vehemence from those (often outside education) who cry, "It's been proved that synthetic phonics work, so drop everything else and just get on with!" But it is necessary that professionals should be clear about what the research actually says. A good place to start is the Literacy Trust's website. Go to "Phonics" and there are hotlinks to research, fact and opinion pieces.
2. Heading for special measures?
One of the most heartening things you can do is look at the "Special Measures" thread on the TES staffroom forum. It is an object lesson in gaining inspiration from a difficult situation. A typical post: "It's the best thing that could have happened to us. We've learnt so much, pulled together as a team, had great help from the local authority, and we're a better school for it." There is lots of good practical stuff too.
3. Remember the Leadership Programme for Serving Heads?
Did you realise it was replaced by Head for the Future? Developed by the National College for School Leadership in conjunction with the Hay Group, the course is open to heads with more than three years' experience. It has five phases over more than a year, and though it looks demanding, it also has the potential to bring about real, ongoing change in schools. There are places available from next spring.
4. What is your entrance hall for?
Does it interest and motivate the children? One of the most striking secondary school entrances I have seen had a display of very big photographs taken on results day. There are children hugging, waving papers, running towards their beaming parents. The message - clear, but not spelt out - is, "Work hard and this is what it will be like for you."
5. Consider ICT and disabilities
Make sure you are aware of the extent to which technology can support children with disabilities. The technology is moving all the time and it is important to keep up. The charity AbilityNet found that there are a minority of heads who still show little knowledge or no interest in adaptive technology. Check out the Information Technologists' Company "IT Directors' Guide to Accessible IT".
Send your suggestions for this column to Gerald Haigh at email@example.com.