Becoming a specialist school

12th November 2004 at 00:00
My school is now working for specialist school status. Managers spend days out at seminars and meetings. We focus, not on teaching and learning, but on how to raise thousands of pounds very quickly.

All comprehensives are now encouraged to become specialist schools. But do people really understand the implications? In a comprehensive, the specialist subject is top dog. Other departments have less money and, more importantly, less power to develop and effect change.

To be head of music in a technology college, for example, is to court frustration. The new room and new staff will not be given to the music department. Music teachers will feel marginalised, overworked and unappreciated. The head of music, after many lost battles, will move to an arts college and music will wither.

At sports colleges, sporting success is constantly celebrated. The endless march of rugby and netball teams across the stage at assemblies with their medals leaves little time to celebrate the successes of non-sporting pupils. What's more, PE staff in sports colleges have a habit of stealing pupils from other lessons for tournaments and long events away. And it would be a very brave (or foolhardy) teacher who dared to question the PE department.

In the days before specialist schools, all heads of departments jockeyed for funds, resources and power, and the head attempted to maintain a fair balance. But now, the specialist subject in a specialist college - like the mythological favourite son - is endowed with more resources and power to start with. This makes his more lowly siblings resentful.

My school wants specialist status because of the extra funding it delivers.

Money, not educational aims or philosophic rationale, is behind our present work. Should this be the driving force behind educational change?

Dawn Savage is a head of depart-ment in a North-east compre-hensive.

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