Fashioning a union of vision

9th January 2004 at 00:00
The staffroom cynic who declares that there is no point in getting involved with educational initiatives may be right, if two of my recent experiences are any guide.

I attended a one-day collaborative learning in-service at Angus College, followed shortly thereafter by a twilight session at school on formative assessment.

Both of these sessions were very good, as they were well led and enjoyed a high degree of participation from those present. However, I experienced an overwhelming sense of dej... vu: hadn't I seen all of this before? Sadly, the answer in both cases was yes.

Firstly, with regard to collaborative learning: no less than 15 years ago I became much involved with enterprise learning in the Scottish Borders, of which collaborative learning is just another form.

An incredible amount of work from a large number of staff went into Borders enterprise learning. What has happened to it? Why is Angus, and undoubtedly many other parts of Scotland, unaware of the experiences and knowledge generated by an almost identical educational innovation?

At least the names have changed from enterprise to collaborative. But formative assessment, my second recent experience, has not even done that.

Again, about 15 years ago I was a member of a regional group examining formative assessment.

And yet, the same problems and the same possible solutions are still being discussed today. Why does Scottish education suffer from amnesia? Why are the fruits of painstaking educational research not readily apparent in current classroom practices? Above all, who is responsible and what can be done about it?

You may be tempted to lay the blame at the feet of classroom practitioners.

But, quite simply, they are rarely given the time or the support. Being released for a one-day in-service is one matter, but to receive sustained support within the classroom is entirely different - and almost always beyond available resources.

The blame lies with neither teachers nor researchers. It rests squarely with those who have responsibility for strategic leadership - directors of education and headteachers. They are responsible for strategy, for vision, for leading Scottish education.

Why, then, are they leading us in a circle? Why have the 'leaders'

forgotten the fruits of enterprise learning, flexible learning, negotiating the curriculum, etc? Is it because they never read of them? I doubt it. Is it because they never experienced them? Perhaps.

One solution may come with the advent of the chartered teacher. Recently, I had a delightful conversation with a colleague in his mid-50s who was clearly enthused by the discussions he had been having with others undertaking the pilot chartered teacher course at Paisley University. To participate in a staffroom discussion of such quality and depth is rare but encouraging.

The optimist within me begins to hope that, perhaps, a nexus of chartered teachers will emerge across Scottish schools, fashioning a union of vision with classroom realities - unlike education directors and headteachers for whom classroom practice is what other people do. For chartered teachers, classroom practice will be their life.

But then again, the pessimist within me hears the voice of the staffroom cynic in 2020 pondering, "chartered teachers, whatever became of them?"

Antony Luby Hazlehead Academy Aberdeen

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