I'll show you mine if you show me yours. Resources, that is. Many teachers freely share their resources, but often in a haphazard way. So linking up with other schools and looking at how you can help each other by exchanging curriculum ideas, lesson plans or schemes of work can boost staff morale, encourage continuing professional development (CPD) and provide engaging new learning contexts for pupils.
Many local authorities have websites that can act as repositories for lesson plans, which schools can download and share. There are also many sites that have lesson plans. Beware, the internet is a great place to get lost, and the plans you find may have to be adapted considerably for use in your school. So linking locally or regionally could be a more efficient way of sharing.
There are many sharing models, from subject-specific internet forums, where teachers can exchange ideas and access help, to the vast National Strategies website, which holds information on a range of teaching approaches, CPD, aspects of leadership and subject-specific information. Of course, The TES website has its own resource-sharing section too.
Some schools have a cluster arrangement linking them together. Technology has made the sharing of good practice and innovative ideas easy to achieve, from uploading documents to creating podcasts. If you use a virtual learning environment (VLE), such as Moodle, you could set up a specific site for a cluster of schools. Each department could have its own access site and the staff from each school would be the registered users.
Anything from lesson plans to schemes of work could be shared on a site such as this. Private message boards could help staff communicate with each other, offering help, support, tips or troubleshooting lessons. They could also enable teachers to share subject expertise. For example, if your school lacks a physicist, but another in your cluster has a top-notch one, help might be at hand.
And these sites don't have to be limited to lesson plans and schemes of work. Reviews of books and equipment could be helpful, and teachers could post links to useful internet sites they have found. Science departments could share their protocols for new or exciting experiments. The art department could share new techniques or approaches to practical work. History and drama departments could share ideas for role play or exchange original pupil plays or videos. The music department could exchange pupils' compositions in MP3 formats. Language students could practise their oral skills using video conferencing or webcams. Meanwhile, staff could discuss the assessment of pupils' work, helping each other come to more accurate decisions about levels.
Only one school in the cluster needs to have a VLE, as they can be accessed via the internet. It is also useful to have an agreement between schools about the use and distribution of materials and a code of conduct that ensures everybody contributes so that there are no "takers" who are not "givers".
When sharing material, you must be sensitive to copyright issues. Published resources are often copyright-free for the school that buys them, but sharing beyond the school may infringe copyright.
James Williams is a lecturer in science education at the University of Sussex Next week: The new inspection regulations.