Best ideas left on the shelf

28th October 2005 at 01:00
When it comes to making you wonder what it's all about, there's nothing quite like contemplating the site of a school where you once held a senior post and is now demolished in favour of a Morrison's supermarket. (I know they do good wine, but still, for God's sake, Morrisons? Couldn't the local authority have stuck out for Waitrose? Or were they saving that for the grammar school?)

When I look at where the school used to be - and there's absolutely nothing left - I think of all the stored-up wisdom and experience that evaporated with it. What happened to it all? Some was dispersed around the city, I suppose, with teachers who moved on (I went to primary and the rest is history), but there's no doubt that an awful lot was lost as people took the opportunity to retire or just go and do something else.

We knew quite a bit, too. It was a big urban comprehensive with a stable, experienced staff. Ten of us were house heads - key leadership figures, each with a well-defined style (mine was based on chaos theory).

Together we'd learned about behaviour - what worked, how to spot someone who was sleepy, or anxious, or ready to explode. Remember Gary Lineker (was it the 1990 semi-final against Germany?) signalling meaningfully to the bench to warn them that Paul Gascoigne was about to go off like a firecracker? That was us. Like Gary, we could read the signs. No current behaviour policy quite covers it.

We knew about things that are now coming back, too. Take tutor groups. Our school was one of the last in which each tutor had, for pastoral and mentoring purposes, a group of between 15 and 20 children aged 11 to 18.

All the other schools had gone over to year grouping. We, though, clung to the original vision. Good relationships formed, attitudes were softened, points of view were exchanged and quiet children spoke up for themselves.

Now I hear from secondary heads that vertical tutor groups are returning.

Well, if someone would take the trouble to go and dig under Morrison's, they might find a cache of minutes, documents, procedures and guidelines that will save them from reinventing the wheel. Or they could pick up a bottle, go find someone who's done it, and ask them.

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