No time to sit back, we must plan ahead

23rd April 2004 at 01:00
It's that time of year when the planning has to start again, for next session. Yet it feels as if we've only just finished the improvement plan for the current one. I am quite certain that the years are getting shorter: is this a symptom of aging or of our increasingly busy academic year?

The inspectors' visit to Oban High in February certainly didn't help and set us well behind with targets. (Beforehand, one of our department heads had prayed "I know they'll be coming soon but please don't let it be February", little suspecting the prophetic nature of his quiet plea.) February and March are hectic months in the secondary sector, with prelim exams, reports, NABs, folios, yet more prelims to ensure that all elements are covered in case of appeal, options for S2, options for S4 and S5, along with a plethora of parents' evenings for various purposes.

We've attempted to spread the annual load across the calendar with some success but there is much that cannot be moved from these months.

Teachers and pupils are getting tired and of course when this happens people are not at their best and tempers can become frayed where normally peace and tranquillity reign (though perhaps "tranquillity" is a word too far in a big secondary). And thus we have the weel-kent March peak in discipline referrals, just to add to the mixture.

Yet somewhere in all of this we have to start reviewing this session's improvement plan and begin our evaluation of the school at various levels to inform our work for next session.

My senior management team has started this process by considering the implications of moving to our new structures in terms of staff development needs. These are substantial; former assistant headteachers become deputes, principal teachers move to curriculum PTs and we'll have six pastoral PTs.

Our authority, Argyll and Bute, is drawing up new job descriptions for the PTs and at Oban High school we have a working group which is due to consult with staff soon on proposals for pastoral care.

In one way or another, these changes will impact on all of our staff and our window of opportunity for setting up the new structures and the necessary staff development is short.

A reduction from nine to six PTs of pastoral care will require more input from other staff as mentors and tutors and this in itself will need careful planning and lots of development work.

Our deputes will have new remits in terms of working across the school on learning and teaching and this will have quite a different focus from their previous remits. In the "learning school" the leading learners have to be senior management teams so that they can support principal teachers in leading learning in their subject area.

However, it is the curriculum PTs who need most support and staff development. Their responsibilities have grown over the years from being the teachers who do requisitions to becoming leaders and managers of teams of teachers and pupils, yet they have been the most neglected in terms of recognition of their role, time and resources to do their job effectively and training and development. A full description of their role and the skills and dispositions they require to do their demanding job effectively would take another article.

There is a great need in Scottish schools for training in leadership, not only for senior management teams but across the board. Although there certainly is a place for a roll-out of national training, a great deal of this must be done in-house by careful mentoring. I see this as one of the major roles for senior managers and we'll have to get ourselves tooled up to do it.

Can anyone recommend any good trainers?

Linda Kirkwood is headteacher of Oban HighIf you have any comments, e-mail

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