Framework needs all the help it can get

20th February 2009 at 00:00
School effectiveness should come by all available means - but come it must

It is too early to tell whether the school effectiveness framework will make any difference to academic achievement. But the early signs seem good. Sue Edgar, a so-called superhead, appears to be doing sterling work spreading good teaching practice across local authority boundaries in North Wales.

But Jane Hutt must be waiting for the results of a recently commissioned evaluation of the framework with bated breath. The government is pinning its hopes on this scheme, but has it put all its eggs in one basket?

The framework appears to have become a sticking plaster for anything in Welsh education that is failing: if schools are not performing well, then the framework is the answer; if there is lack of funding in Welsh schools compared with those in England, the framework will make our teachers so good that they won't miss the extra Pounds 500 per pupil they don't have compared with those over the border.

How much are we relying on this scheme to ensure that children - no matter what their local authority, school or teacher - are all taught on a level playing field? At present, provision and access is far too patchy.

Of course, there are other avenues for teachers' self-improvement. The General Teaching Council for Wales is forever promoting the virtues of continuing professional development. But the organisation ran out of training money six months into the financial year - teachers must wait until April for more.

There are also supposed to be dedicated pedagogy champions working alongside the framework, although their work is never promoted by the government.

In a recent interview with TES Cymru, Dr Bill Maxwell, the chief inspector of schools, said he was concerned by a lack of national direction in the spreading of good pedagogy in Wales. His office is trying to redress the balance with more "good practice" awaydays for teaching staff. There are also more websites for teachers to consult.

But other heads who have also taught across the border have reservations about Wales's teacher-training effort. TES Cymru has spoken to many who, while they have praised the Welsh education system, still lament the lack of training available and its poor co-ordination. One head we spoke to also said that more schools should open their doors more, shout about their achievements, and welcome heads and teachers from other schools to learn from their good practice.

On-the-job teacher training in Wales cannot afford to be poorly co-ordinated or inconsistent. But sadly, many heads and teachers say it is.

The school effectiveness framework is still in its infancy, and only time will tell whether it is bearing fruit. But surely the clock is ticking faster than the progress made? We can only hope that the framework, part of the whole tri-level reforms agenda, will get off the ground. We need to see positive evidence that it is working - sooner rather than later.


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