Could be dangerous if swallowed

10th May 1996 at 01:00
Gerald Haigh with advice for the hard-pressed science co-ordinator. Make sure the head knows the size of the job, and accepts that you cannot do everything at once. "Make a list of the things you have to do," says Anne. "And put beside each one how much time you need. It will probably add up to an impossible number of hours. Take the list to the head and say, 'Tell me which things you think are the most important, and stop nagging me about the rest'."

Get whole-school commitment, at staff meetings, to responsible use of the equipment. Mandy Rogers and her colleagues have tried various methods of storage - distributing it in year group boxes, for example. "But if someone wanted a class set of magnets, they had to raid all the boxes."

As a result, she now feels that apparatus should be centrally kept. Anne Goldsworthy underlines that staff must be clear about the material that children can fetch and that which should only be taken out by adults. "We sorted that out at staff meetings," agrees Mandy. "For example I have an electricity box in my room, with batteries and so on, which I take to a class myself when they need it. The chemical cupboard is locked, of course, and I keep the key."

Planning takes on even greater importance where there is little or no time for the co-ordinator to visit classrooms. Mandy feels confident about preparation and planning in her school. "We've been through it at so many staff meeetings. All the teachers' planning comes to me, with a copy to the head. I check it through, and make sure everything is on line."

Inspection, says Anne, has helped to focus minds on keeping apparatus tidy and in good order. "Teachers do get a handle on resources as part of their preparation for inspection, and everyone commits lots of time to making sure their stuff is well organised and labelled. My feeling is that schools which have been through the process keep things running well afterwards."

Signing-out systems tend to break down. Mandy had a signing-out book in her room, but this brought interruptions. Anne prefers a signing-out sheet hanging, with a pencil, near to the apparatus.

Anne suggests also keeping a "want" list in the staffroom. "Just two columns - things you wanted but couldn't find, and anything broken and in need of replacement."

Even more importantly, how does the no-time co-ordinator manage to evaluate the quality of classroom work in her subject? Anne Goldsworthy offers a few suggestions. "Go round and look at science displays. If you see, for example, that Year 3 work seems to be at the same level as Year 5, then there's something to think about.

"Another idea is to use the hall for a science display - everyone puts something up, and you all have a look at it together. If you do it as a whole school, and especially if you emphasise one aspect of the subject - attainment target 1, for example (experimental and investigative science) you get the feel for how it's progressing through the school. That can be very effective.

"People don't feel threatened; you get a nice display in the hall, and the head can refer to it in assembly to boost the subject."

She also suggests looking at samples of children's work. "It's less threatening to the teacher if you go for the most able couple of children in each class. You know that if that's the best, then everyone else comes underneath. It gives you a clear picture of whether you're getting even progress through the school."

Finally, says Anne, take the list of jobs that you showed to the head. "Tick them off as you do them. Teachers don't give themselves enough credit for what they have achieved. Ticking things off does make you feel better, and OFSTED inspectors will ask you what have been your main achievements."

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