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5. Things to think about this week

1. Scrap buttons, employ humans

The Government wants "real time" school-home reporting, but often the problem is more basic than that. Imagine the anxious parent of a distressed child phoning your school. How quickly, if at all, will they speak to someone who understands and can offer reassurance and good advice? Some otherwise outstanding schools are simply not very good at this. Presumably senior leaders do not often test these systems out for themselves.

Key point: How much would it cost to drop the press-button phone navigation system and employ skilled, knowledgeable receptionists?

2. Innovate to accumulate

Have you considered setting up your own innovations unit? Some schools have an open-access staff group whose brief is to produce new teaching and learning ideas. The guiding principles are that the group is all-inclusive - anyone with something to give - and any idea, however off-the-wall, can be aired. Two good examples are Banbury School in Oxfordshire, which has a teaching and learning think-tank, and Wood Green High in Sandwell, West Midlands, which has an innovation unit, as reported in The TES on May 5, 2006.

3. Computer savvy for grown-ups

Look at two recent complementary information and communication technology announcements. RM's School Gate Survey of ICT experience among the 11-16 age group, published in January, shows a generation even more clued-up than you thought. And in December, Childnet International launched new versions of its award-winning KnowITall resource, one for teachers and one for trainee teachers. Each has advice on what digital aids young people are using, resources, safety and creative classroom use.


4. Can you hear your pupil voice?

What is your policy on pupil voice? Two forthcoming events should help. The Association of School and College Leaders is running a course titled "Every Child Matters: The Student Voice" in Wakefield next Wednesday and in London on June 2. It is led by Dr Bernard Trafford, a serving head and well-known pioneer of democracy in schools, and Lois Canessa, co-ordinator of the London Secondary Schools Councils' Action Research Project. And on February 29, at the Education Show at the NEC in Birmingham, Tim Rudd, co-author of Futurelab's free Learner Voice handbook, will run a seminar entitled "Approaches to Learner Voice in Schools". He will be supported by Simon Kaufman, a teacher adviser in Barnsley, and they promise to dispel some myths and pin down some definitions and practical approaches.


5. Bend your mind around flexi-time

Do you have colleagues asking if they can work part-time? Or asking to change their hours or days? Or if they are expected to attend a meeting when they aren't working that day? The TES staffroom website has many postings about this kind of issue. It is important to give the right advice. Don't make assumptions or revert to outdated experience. ATL, the teachers' union, has just added Part-time Work to its series of booklets on employment matters. It is free to download, whether you are a member or not.


Send your contributions or suggestions for this column to Gerald Haigh at

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