14th October 2005 at 01:00
I am a teacher-governor. I have read your view that there is a new spirit in schools to bring joy to the curriculum. We are introducing more music, art, drama and healthy cooking, and plan to make basic subject teaching more participatory. But we have two old-fashioned parent-governors who keep back-tracking. They say that when they were at school there was an outcry about sloppy work in the basics, and painting and storywriting all day with no proper marking. They say this is why governments tried to pull things together with Sats and inspections and that parents won't stand for it. Who decides? How can we make progress? Can we say the curriculum is not governors' responsibility?

You can't say that. While the detail of teaching and learning, the "how", is professional territory, governors have always had responsibility for schools' general conduct and more recently for academic improvement. Why do you assume all parents feel the same? Your two governors must be among the older primary parents if they can recall the "anything goes" years and you must have other parents on the governing body.

I am lucky to be a governor of a primary school where the parents are enthusiastic about an imaginative curriculum and no sign of any back-to-basics movement. The key is to convince parents not only that children enjoy breadth but that they also learn better right across the curriculum.

The acceptance won't just happen. Your staff believe in what they are doing and that is a good start, but those who want change must prove their case always. First, there must be continuing dialogue between the professionals and the governing body about the curriculum and encouragement to come and see.

Second, parents should be given information about and reasons for changes, and slogans such as the one I keep using, "They don't run faster when you narrow the path". Finally, you must accept the need for evidence that learning improves across the board.

I recently suggested in a conference of groups doing innovative work in schools with grants from a charity that the charity should ask for the reports made to it to include details of the school's SATs results over the period following the changes. This was accepted without argument, but it needed a visitor to say it.

That will make the difference between the "let it all hang out" philosophy referred to by your two doubters and a creative curriculum in which faith is supported by evidence and pursued with rigour. I expect you know that there is now a new category of advanced skills teachers for creativity and some relevant national organisations to promote it.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see where answers will appear

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