Editorial - Welsh vision could hit the world for six

17th July 2009 at 01:00
Our school effectiveness framework is a clear winner and must not be sold short

It has been a school year full of dogma and drama. As teachers bid farewell to their classes, many are also taking stock. In 2008-09, as the world plunged into the worst recession since the demise of Adolf Hitler, it was feared Wales's classroom revolution would crumble and crack like the schools around it.

The headlines told of redundancy fears as the economic downturn hit home to teachers and lecturers. But some would say it is time to move on from an obsession with inadequate funding in Wales. Perhaps the optimists are right. In the absence of cash, a shot of some greater substance may be what the doctor ordered as a long-term cure for flagging educational achievement.

Research proves you can pump all the funding you like into education, but nothing beats good teaching. Teachers in Wales may not know this, but in many ways they have never had it so good. And all being well, it's about to get better because the Assembly government has an ace up its sleeve. The ace is boringly called the school effectiveness framework (SEF), but the human face of this pilot initiative in schools is already proving a knockout.

At its rawest, SEF is simply the spreading of good practice between schools, but it is already gaining a reputation as a sticking plaster for anything wrong in Welsh education. Why? The problem lies with the government, which is not communicating its advances effectively - an irony in itself. How many heads know, for example, that the early success in one pilot school has attracted the interest of one of the world's education greats. Michael Fullan, adviser to the education minister of Ontario, Canada, has planned a visit to Twynyrodyn Primary in Merthyr Tydfil after being impressed by its SEF network under the auspices of its headteacher Michelle Jones.

Communicating good practice beyond local authority boundaries is fast becoming a way of school life there. It is changing a culture where schools have stood in isolation and teachers are spoonfed by local authorities. But it is now up to the Assembly government to make sure the message is loud and clear.

No one expected Wales to pull off the Ashes, did they? But commentators around the world have been silenced after the first test in Cardiff. Wales also has the potential to wow the world with stunning education policy. Wales is on the verge of something good and its educational future does not have to be on a sticky wicket. Schools need someone to hit the world for six with our vision.

SEF is such a simple idea and does not have to be achieved through expensive one-day courses in posh hotels. All that's required is the most basic of human skills: the art of communication. How expensive can that be?

The effectiveness framework has the potential to generate a chain reaction of good practice in the classroom that could prove infectious. But if Wales continues to sell its vision short, the ugly head of funding, or lack of it, will continue to dominate headlines in 2009-10.

Nicola Porter, Editor, TES Cymru, E: nicola.porter@tes.co.uk.

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