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5 Things to Think About This Week

1. Shortcuts could shortchange you

Make sure school money doesn't turn round and bite you. Put time aside to check that you are following all the authority's financial procedures. New heads sometimes inherit shortcuts and loose supervision, particularly in areas such as cash handling and payment for evening lettings. ("Oh, we've always done it like this. It's so much easier.") And while you're about it, check that you're charging enough for your lettings. You may be losing money instead of making it.

Key point: If in doubt, ring local authority internal audit and invite them in. It's very much in their interest to see you operate correctly.

2. This way - to impress visitors

Give some thought to how your visitors - Ofsted, prospective parents, interview candidates - are shown round the school. Have a policy on who does it, the route they take, and the main points to make.

Derek Hayes and Jeanette Phillips of the Childcare Consultancy hold a training session (at the Manchester Early Years and Primary Teaching Exhibition, among other places) called Sensational Showrounds. Intended initially for early years institutions where there may be a need to recruit paying customers, there are in fact lots of general lessons. "There are standards for everything else, but showing people round is too often left to chance," says Mr Hayes.

Key point: Ofsted inspectors often note with approval that their initial tour was led by children. But handpick, brief and rehearse them.

3. Progress with partner primaries

Are you one of the schools that's running, or thinking of running, a shortened key stage 3, with key stage 4 starting - at least for some - in Year 9? If so, it's worth looking carefully at enhanced liaison with partner primaries. Experience in some schools (Wootton Bassett School in Wiltshire is a good example) shows that investment in working with Year 6 is repaid by better progress in Years 7 and 8.

4. Support looked-after children

Spend some time making sure you're doing your best for your looked-after children. Nationally, there's a lot of catching up to do. The figures are startling: for example, only 1 per cent of looked-after children go on to higher education, compared with 37 per cent of young people nationally. A recent booklet* from the National Strategies has good practical advice for teachers, with some interesting case studies of schools "catching" gifted but underachieving children.


*Gifted and Talented Education. Guidance on preventing underachievement: a focus on children and young people in care.

5. Facts about the armed forces

Visits by the military to schools is a talking point. If it's an issue in your school, it's not a bad idea to go beyond the headlines and read some of the source literature. David Gee's Informed Choice?, funded by the Rowntree Foundation, has lots of facts and figures. And the National Union of Teachers' website has a fairly balanced article on the subject.


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

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