1. What works to improve standards
Does one of your subjects outperform all the others? It probably does, because by comparison with the rest of Europe, the UK scores badly on "Within School Variation" (WSV). NCSL's report on WSV by Professor David Reynolds, just published, finds that where they are energetically tackled, standards improve across the board. The report, based on work in primary and secondary schools, contains lots of examples of what works.
Key point: The report concludes: "What we found was that across all our schools any reduction in WSV is linked with an improvement in value added, so schools embarking on the journey of reducing WSV can be certain that it will be productive on results."
- "Schools Learning From Their Best. The Within School Variation (WSV) Project." ncsl.org.uk
2. A shift of focus
Did you know that today's learners will have 10 to 14 jobs by the time they reach 38? And although 98 per cent of 12-year-olds want to do well at school, only 38 per cent look forward to going. If you knew, you've probably seen "Shift Happens", Microsoft's simple but astonishingly telling Powerpoint collection of arresting facts and ideas designed to focus all of us on the challenges facing schools in an age of rapid change. Find it in various places including YouTube - (but make sure you get the UK version) Or here:
3. Tea and empathy
Do you have one parent who sets out to make your life a misery? Take the advice of Julie Duckworth, head of Ledbury Primary School in Herefordshire. She says: "Just remember someone like that has no right to live rent free inside your head." She showed me her antidote. It's a box containing all of the letters and cards of appreciation she's ever had from parents, children and other members of the community. "When I've had a bad experience, I sit down with a cup of tea and my box of magic and read some of the lovely messages. Every head, every teacher really, needs their own box of magic."
4. A pound for their thoughts
An interesting development from Pearson Publishing. They've decided to collect all of their publications on leadership, CPD, and learning, making them available in digital form. Schools can buy access to the whole catalogue on disc - pound;12,000 of material they say - for pound;1 per student per year. There's a three-month free trial. It's worth a look.
5. Exploring your local town
We've been saying for years that children don't walk around and absorb the sights, smells, stories and mental maps of their own neighbourhoods. The Children's Society's "Walk and Explore" project could go some way to helping overcome that. It's based on some flagship organised walks in historic cities - including Canterbury, Bristol, Durham and Oxford - but there's also a resource pack for schools to devise their own local "Walk and Explore". Use it for fundraising or to support the curriculum, or simply as a bit of fun to get families and children out and about in their home town or village.
Send your contributions or suggestions for this column to Gerald Haigh (firstname.lastname@example.org).