Leaders out to Africa

16th November 2007 at 00:00
The government is to fund primary leaders to volunteer abroad. The move is an acknowledgement the visits can help schools here as much as those in developing nations.

Jim Knight, schools minister, has announced pound;50,000 to allow six to 10 heads or deputies three months away to work in Africa. The money will help pay for cover for their absences. The work in Africa will be funded through the VSO, the international volunteering agency.

A Southampton University study commissioned by VSO this year found that volunteering overseas allowed teachers to refresh their methods and return to their schools with fresh enthusiasm.

With many heads retiring in their 50s, creating a leadership shortage, the Government has accepted that overseas sabbaticals can be important in retaining school leaders.

"The gains to the African schools are clear," Mr Knight said. "But these teachers are also bringing knowledge and experience back to their classrooms in England."

Governors at Ambergate Primary in Derbyshire agreed to pay for cover so the head, Caroline Webster, 50, could travel to Namibia this summer to work with teachers.

Adam Hounslow-Eyre, 41, her deputy, took over the school's leadership and enjoyed the responsibility so much he wants to be a head.

Ms Webster came back with new ideas for incorporating a global dimension into the curriculum.

"Because it was a pilot, the school had to stump up the money," she said. "The new funding means other absences will be properly funded."

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, which ran this year's pilot volunteering project, said letting heads spend time in a different culture was a "cracking good way" to retain them.

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