No to initiatives

27th June 2008 at 01:00
The most successful primary headteachers are those who are prepared to reject government initiatives
The most successful primary headteachers are those who are prepared to reject government initiatives.

New research reveals that heads at high-achieving schools filter initiatives, so staff are not overloaded.

Alan Thomas, head of Hetton Lyons Primary in Sunderland, examined the qualities shared by successful primaries in the north-east.

"Experienced heads were brave enough to say no to initiatives," he said. "But they were concerned for inexperienced heads ... who may not have had the strength to say no."

Dr Thomas also found that successful schools tended to be run by heads not threatened by ambitious staff. He added that successful heads: "exerted considerable influence, directly and indirectly, over others in the organisation" and "were focused on pupils' learning".

They also had a clear sense of what they wanted from the school, and how they planned to achieve it.

And most felt good results were a small part of a school's success. "Success to them was the all-round development of children," he said.

l 'Long-lasting Success: Creating Strategic and Sustainable Primary Schools' is available at

Phonic befuddlement

Many new primary teachers do not understand the connection between phonics and good spelling, or know how they can use phonics to support struggling readers.

An Ofsted report examined how effectively trainee teachers are taught to use synthetic phonics, as outlined in Jim Rose's 2007 review of the teaching of reading.

Inspectors surveyed 20 teacher-training providers. Their report, published today, reveals that few trainees have a clear understanding of the role of synthetic phonics in supporting weak readers at key stage 2. And around half the courses fail to make an explicit link between phonic work and spelling.

The report recommends that the Training and Development Agency should clarify what proportion of teacher-training courses is devoted to Rose's recommendations.

But, inspectors added: "Overall ... trainees were well-equipped to teach early reading, including systematic phonics. The proof was seen in the trainees' teaching, much of which was good."

'Teacher Trainees and Phonics' is available at

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