1. Put your lab under the microscope
If you are concerned about science take up in your school and looking to refurbish the laboratories, you will realise there's a connection. But you'll need to tread carefully. Three years ago the Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services found a significant number of teachers were dissatisfied with their refurbished labs. And now changes in teaching and learning styles and ICT developments could mean the conventional suite of labs is no longer the answer. With a lab costing at least twice as much as a classroom, this is a key issue for the Building Schools for the Future programme.
Key point: Project Faraday looked at science facilities in the light of BSF. The issues are well discussed in an article, "Schools as Living Laboratories for Science", on the National College for School Leadership's BSF website, which also gives useful weblinks.
- http:future.ncsl.org.uk; www.cleapss.org.uk; www.teachernet.gov.uk
2. Be inspired by distinguished speakers
Patrick O'Kane, deputy head of Bowring Community Sports College in Knowsley, near Liverpool, once described his school's new curriculum to me as "fluid, flexible and fun". If you want to hear more, Patrick is one of many distinguished speakers at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust November conference, called Leading System Redesign. All the latest major systemic rethinks - such as "age not stage", vertical houses, project-based learning, student voice, assessment for learning - are to be discussed. If you can't get there, study the programme because you'll find useful contacts.
3. Meet a like mind on a deputy blog
Is your deputy overworked? Hilary Sargeant, who runs a blog on the National Association of Head Teachers website, has commented on the number of deputies who are now running their schools because their heads are working with other schools or attending to initiatives such as BSF and the diploma programme. "While it is clearly an excellent opportunity for continuous professional development, there comes a point when it is plainly unreasonable or impossible," she writes. You can keep up with Hilary's blog and contact her with feedback.
4. Climb trees, not the walls
Following well-established Scandinavian practice, the Forest School organisation gets children out of doors for learning and whittling sticks, finding bugs and hiding behind trees - the things that so many children don't get to do these days. The emphasis on outdoor learning means more and more schools are getting involved.
5. Restructure and spread the load
Is the traditional primary school management structure - head, deputy, subject leaders - still appropriate? One school doing something different is Chilcote Primary in Birmingham, which has a head and four assistant heads, each of whom leads a team. There are no teaching and learning responsibility posts. Instead, one-off, short-term payments are made to individuals who lead school improvement initiatives. The effect is to spread responsibility and leadership experience widely across the staff, and to reduce the workload on individuals. It is explained in a Powerpoint document best found by typing Chilcote Primary School Staffing Structure into Google.
Send your contributions or suggestions for this column to Gerald Haigh at firstname.lastname@example.org.