5. Things to think about this week
Look across the work placements you organise and employer involvement. A lot is happening, and it can only increase, so there is an argument for having a strong specialist team pulling it all together. At Chalvedon and Barstable, a two-school federation in Essex where lots of vocational work takes place, a team of four has been established, led by a vocational engagement manager, to run the work placements for all the schools' courses.
Key point: Because employers see that the federation is serious in its intent, is efficient, and that it pays quick attention to concerns, they respond positively, keen to contribute to students' learning.
2. Try on some familiar old clothes
As a primary head (and I was one once), do you think it possible that secondary schools are running off with your clothes? For many years, primaries have prided themselves on a child-centred, cross-curricular approach to learning. Now, with Year 6 hog-tied by Sats, and a new dawn breaking at key stage 3, the picture might be changing as more and more secondaries try innovative approaches at Year 7. In the past two weeks alone I've seen a thematic "Project Seven" curriculum at Bowring Community Sports College in Knowsley on Merseyside, a skills-based Year 7 programme at Shireland Collegiate Academy in Sandwell, and a project-based independent learning programme at the 500-year-old Wolverhampton Grammar. Something is certainly stirring out there.
3. Help pupils to research their identity
A head in a culturally diverse borough wrote in to suggest that although schools are generally effective with special educational needs, they aren't so good at helping young people with the issues and tensions surrounding their cultural and ethnic identities. That's precisely what the Who Do We Think We Are? programme is for. Led by the Royal Geographical Society, the Historical Association, and Paula Kitching, a citizenship consultant, the programme invites schools (primary and secondary) to engage with their pupils in reflecting on the issues around identity, diversity and citizenship. There is a Who Do We Think We Are? week coming up (June 23-28) and you can find lots of ideas and resources on the website. www.wdwtwa.org.uk
4. Sound out voice recognition
When voice recognition (VR) software arrived, did you jump at what seemed to be the solution many problems? And not just for students either. You visualised yourself rattling off the governors' report at high speed. Not so easy, was it? Up to 80 per cent of VR users give up on it in the first year. But Abilitynet, the national charity that helps people with disabilities find technological solutions, knows the problem well and has come up with a low cost (pound;35) online course to support Dragon Naturally Speaking, the top-selling VR package. So perhaps it's worth dusting off your VR and trying again. www.abilitynet.org
5. Don't forget your right of reply
You have less than three months to respond to Ofsted's new consultation on changing how they do inspections. There are some quite significant proposals: more inspections for "satisfactory" schools; involving the senior management team in the process; and, perhaps most debatable of all, "no-notice" inspections. You'll want to consult widely yourself before replying, because from September 2009 all these changes will affect everyone in the school community. www.ofsted.gov.uk
Send your contributions or suggestions for this column to Gerald Haigh at firstname.lastname@example.org.