1. Collaborate to accumulate
The word "collaboration" is in the air at the moment, and despite having been urged to compete by the Government for years, there are schools that run successful collaborative arrangements. Robert Hill, a former adviser to Tony Blair and author of Achieving More Together: Adding Value Through Partnership, has been promoting the idea for some time now. He is speaking at an Association of School and College Leaders conference in London on September 26, and Manchester on October 7.
Key point: Robert Hill made his case in a TES article on January 25.
2. Branch out into Exploratree territory
Last week, I mentioned independent learning at key stage 3. Now Futurelab, the education innovation think tank, has come up with Exploratree, a free, online resource designed for those teachers across all key stages who are developing creative and flexible approaches. It is described as a series of easily customised "thinking guides", but you'll see there's much more to it than that. It's in a Beta version at the moment, so feedback would be welcome.
3. Put the whizz-bang back into science
When did you last say to a science teacher, "Are you sure that's legal?" Surely, with all the health and safety regulations in force these days, they can't make those lovely bangs and smells we all remember from our lessons with old "Ticker" Mitchell and Miss "Mad" Maxwell? Bob Worley of Cleapss, the science advisory service, is there to say they can. He gives a lecture called, "Surely that's banned?" which reassures teachers and heads that exciting practical work is possible - and necessary - for good learning. "Rumours spread," he says. "If anyone says that you're not allowed to do something, get on to Cleapss straight away."
www.cleapss.org.uk; for Scotland, www.sserc.org.uk
4. Make sure your site has a safety net
Every so often, a thread appears on the TES online staffroom from someone keen to start a school website. The latest one ("School web sites", under the "Administrators" heading) has good advice based on experience. Remember, though, to take account of child safety issues. For that, you need to look at the website of Becta, the schools technology agency, which has a page on the subject.
Key point: It's easy to forget that your website is out there for the world to see. For your own home-school contacts database and collaboration, you need another solution, such as a protected portal in your management information system or learning platform.
www.becta.org.uk (search "School websites")
5. Have your say on a $64,000 question
The Department for Children, Schools and Families is running an online consultation on the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. Question 10 says: "Are there barriers to co-locating other services for children, young people and families on school sites?" For many, it's the $64,000 question.
One headteacher member of a BSF team points out that, although schools have always hired out their facilities, this is different: "A service to the community that they have no direct control over. If it goes wrong, the school potentially is going to feel that its good name is affected. The challenge is for leaders to allow broader usage and find it non-threatening." Nobody, so far as I can see, has yet found the answer to that, so add your thoughts to the consultation.
Send your contributions or suggestions for this column to Gerald Haigh at email@example.com.