'Reform is out of control'

30th March 2007 at 01:00
Schools need to do fewer things better, says honoured head as he bows out

ONE of Wales's most respected heads, who retires today, has called for an end to the initiative overload swamping schools.

But his plea comes as Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, announces that radical reform of teaching and learning for seven to 14-year-olds is next on her hit-list.

Sir Keith Rowlands, who was awarded an OBE for services to education in 2002, wrote to the minister last October, warning that schools were failing to keep up with changes. He claims not to have had a reply, even though his letter was endorsed by 27 fellow heads in Monmouthshire and re-sent in January.

Mr Rowlands, the 59-year-old head of Dell primary school in Chepstow, has been invited to Downing Street in May to be honoured for his standard-raising achievements by Prime Minister Tony Blair. But, despite leaving on a high note, he said it was about time someone spoke out against the over-zealous reform that had marred his last years in post.

He praised the vision of initiatives, including the play-led foundation phase, but said they had been thrust on schools too quickly. He advised that they needed to be "doing fewer things better".

In an open letter to governors across Wales in their newsletter Cadwyn, edited by Steve Gullick at the Swansea school of education, he writes:

"Most, if not all, initiatives seem worthwhile, but the ever-increasing list is formidable."

He lists 35, claiming that five training days and 30 staff meetings during a year are not enough to keep staff up to speed.

Speaking at an all-Wales meeting of the NUT Cymru, Ms Davidson said reform was needed to bridge the gap between the foundation phase and the vocationally led 14-19 learning pathways.

The announcement comes after Susan Lewis, chief inspector, called for a new seven to 14 curriculum in the paper Transforming Schools, published last week. The document says teaching and learning in the age group isn't good enough.

It is claimed that teachers have little idea of their pupils' learning needs and delivery is fragmented. It also suggests pupils are bored.

Ms Davidson said: "When I became minister, the most problematic areas were early years and 14-19. The next education reform should be on seven to 14 and it must be built into the foundation phase."

The meeting was intended to give the four main political parties a platform as the May 3 Assembly government elections draw closer. Plaid Cymru, however, was at its. spring conference.

An Assembly governmentJspokesperson said: "We make no apologies for making Wales a learning country. The initiatives are for the benefit of everyone and our successes have been recognised across the UK and abroad. We have no record of receiving the letter referred to by Sir Keith Rowlands."

Leader, page 26

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