Half-pints make a quart of work

28th March 2003 at 00:00
I have the strangest feeling that, in all kinds of ways, we are experiencing the calm before the storm as a result of job-sizing.

Job sizing was a huge non-event for me. I expected to reflect deeply about what it is that I do each day and then to record details of devolved school management, human resources management, curriculum management, property management, plus much more, but as we all know that did not happen. I was directed not to tick any boxes and, with that advice, felt that the whole process was going along without much headteacher input at all.

At this time there is an opportunity to go right back to basic principles and think about responsibilities and job-sizing for all headteachers in a new way.

Now I tiptoe gently where angels fear to tread.

What is this nonsense about halving nursery numbers in calculations of many kinds? Queensferry Primary has 140 nursery children and 27 under-threes as well as 340 P1-P7 pupils. In any person's book, that gives us a sizeable job to do. In the nursery there are 140 sets of parents or carers to meet and 140 children to care for, educate and report on - and that does not equal 70 full-timers.

Why should a primary school with 500 pupils be entitled to half of a business manager's time while a secondary school of 500 pupils needs a whole and better qualified business manager? What is the principle here? Many of my colleagues and I have never understood this.

What would the picture look like if we turned everything on its head? Students at S5 and S6 are surely mature young adults capable of looking after their own needs and, as such, could better be considered as the ones where numbers are halved for full-time equivalent calculations, if it is necessary to do that at all.

Many secondary pupils go off campus at lunchtimes and so remove the responsibility of their care from the staff. Most primary heads find almost all their pupils remain in school for lunch and these children stay very firmly in their care at that time. There is often very little additional help available when the teaching staff is on lunch break.

The clerical demands for a school with a roll of 500 will be very similar whether it is a primary or secondary school, and so perhaps a redistribution of office staffing could be considered in this brave new world. The financial support of business managers and bursers would be very welcome in most large primaries, so why such different levels of support in two schools with similar rolls?

The really interesting possibilities come when you daydream about additional support for the curriculum. Principal teachers with responsibility for pupils with special educational needs would be invaluable in a primary school as increasing amounts of a headteacher's time are spent in multi-disciplinary meetings.

It is in the nursery years that many special educational needs are identified for the first time and many schools struggle with under-resourcing while managing this situation. Staff cannot monitor learning and teaching effectively when ever more time is spent at "looked after" reviews and crossing town to visit yet another social work centre.

The subject of sharing out the number of posts of responsibility between primary and secondary colleagues should be considered. Principal teachers with responsibility for information and communications technology across the curriculum could impact on all areas, and core subjects such as literacy, numeracy and science could all show significant improvements with the extra help of dedicated team leaders.

In theory, primary heads will be able to appoint principal teachers to meet the changing needs at school. I hope resources will be matched to the needs and opportunities of this initiative.

We all await, with interest, the deliberations of the decision-makers. I predict that primary headteachers will be looking for an improved management structure but that a storm may well build up in secondary schools as different authorities propose very different solutions to respond to job-sizing changes. Wouldn't it be wonderful if some of the anomalies of the old system could be rectified at this time?

Sheilah Jackson is headteacher of Queensferry Primary in Edinburgh

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