5 Things to think about this week

When it comes to the new 14-19 diplomas, I guess we are all in Donald Rumsfeld territory. "There are things we know we know . We know there are some things we do not know.

1. All you need to know about diplomas

When it comes to the new 14-19 diplomas, I guess we are all in Donald Rumsfeld territory. "There are things we know we know . We know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know," as the former US defence secretary once said.

I guess, then, that Optimus Education's conference on "Funding and Delivering the New Diplomas" is going to be popular. It is being held in London on September 25 and is aimed at answering most questions, including those on funding, parent buy-in and sustainability.


2. Consult pupils on building design

As your Building Schools for the Future wave rolls towards you from the horizon, take the views of your pupils. Schools in the early waves of the programme - about 15 local authorities are taking part in each - find that the more time is spent on this, the more rewarding are the results. There are various approaches, such as evening meetings, questionnaires and curriculum-linked projects. One school suspended the timetable for two days to run a programme of consultation.

Also, look at the work of the Sorrell Foundation, which is involving pupils across the country in its Joined up Design for Schools project.


3. Check staff harmony

Review staff relationships. The TES online staffroom postings often display resentments and misunderstandings about the different roles of administrators, managers, support staff and classroom teachers. The role of the cover supervisor remains a particular bone of contention.

Arguably the best account of how to manage this issue is still the Training and Development Agency's case study of Davison High School for girls in Worthing, West Sussex, where Dame Sheila Wallis pioneered cover supervisors 11 years ago, primarily to make time for her staff's professional development. It is a model of how to lead a staff team through a potentially difficult innovation.


Quickest find: search "TDA cover supervisor initiative".

4. Stir the imagination

Give children challenges, and time to tackle them. Take as inspiration Corsham Primary and Wootton Bassett School, both Go4it award winning schools.

At Corsham Primary in Wiltshire, a Year 3 class found a huge tent pitched in their classroom one morning. Their job was to work out how to dismantle it and pack it away, and they showed unsuspected skills of leadership and resourcefulness.

Then there was Eleanor, of Wootton Bassett School in Swindon, and her science challenge. "I devised an experiment to see who is smarter, my older brother or my two pet rats," she said. The real joy of this project, which involved Hampton Court maze, was that her brother was the last to know what was going on.


5. Go shopping for good governors

Do you have trouble recruiting good school governors? Who doesn't? At any one time, out of 350,000 governor places, about 40,000 are unfilled. Don't forget, though, that there's help available from the School Governors' One Stop Shop. This is a charity that helps with governor recruitment - people who want to be governors are matched up with vacancies across the country.

The charity is currently running a "Fresh Faces, Fresh Voices" drive, with a particular emphasis on younger people. The service is free.


Send your contributions or suggestions for this column to Gerald Haigh at gerald.haigh@btinternet.com.

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