A dizzy year of constant change

22nd December 2006 at 00:00
They say change is good. But even the most adaptable in the teaching profession must have felt slightly overwhelmed by the pace of events in Welsh education over the past year. We had Steve Marshall, the new director at the top of a new department, who has already announced plans for - you've guessed it - change.

And, as if that was not enough, time-strapped heads have had to come up to speed in the classroom, swallowing every last word of endless documents on how to bring about some of the biggest education policy changes probably ever encountered in Welsh history. It has left frustrated headteachers pleading with Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, to trust them to get on with the job without interference.

But as Wales picks up the pace, England has slowed down. Education Secretary Ruth Kelly started the year battling for her job in a storm over paedophiles. Enter a sure-footed Alan Johnson. His tenure in the same post has been remarkable for its calm.

He has paid teachers the compliment of letting them get on with what they know best. There have been few speeches, and fewer initiatives. This comes as young teachers, according to a recent study from Nottingham and London universities, get better results than their older colleagues. They are enthusiastic, well-trained and pragmatic. But unless we can persuade them that being a head isn't all about bureaucracy, we shall run out of school leaders in about 15 years' time.

What will 2007 bring? Will Gordon Brown steps into Tony Blair's shoes? In Wales, what will happen in the May Assembly government elections? It seems the only stability in times of great change is Ms Davidson, the driver behind so much change. But is her time at the top coming to an end? Does she have ambitions to climb the greasy pole or see through her new initiatives to the bitter end?

The ballot box will decide her fate. But, for now, Christmas is a welcome diversion from a year of high drama. It a chance to spend time with family, reflect and to recharge batteries for a 2007 that promises to be even more chaotic.

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