Share 'n' share alike

5th May 2006 at 01:00
You'd imagine that a headteacher would have come into contact with some pretty unsavoury characters in her line of work - and even more of them if she also happened to be president of ASCL (the Association of School and College Leaders), the headteachers' union. So when the current president, Sue Kirkham, describes comments as "possibly the most offensive I've heard during my entire career", you can feel sure that the villains she is talking about must be the lowliest form of low life. In fact, they are Ofsted inspectors.

Some of them it seems - not all, I'm sure - have "mentioned in passing" to secondary school staff that their results would look a lot rosier if they stopped helping local primaries. The logic is impeccable. The more that pupils underachieve at key stage 2, the easier it is to slap on added value when they get to the big school.

Fair play to Ofsted's smart alecs: they're only trying to help teachers make the most of the barmy English system which positively encourages schools to put league table performance before a teacher's natural impulse, when he or she gets a bright idea, to shout it from the roof tops.

I know a teacher who has shed blood, sweat and tears creating a PowerPoint revision course for GCSE maths which her pupils can access online. She was happy for me to write about it in The TES. But, from what I've heard, the suggestion had her headmaster expelling steam from his ears and chewing the carpet. He wants her to keep her course under wraps. Not because he's worried about you lot using it, but because he doesn't want pupils in the school down the road to get hold of it. It could bolster their maths results which in turn could knock his school down a rung in the league table.

I hope the same mean spirit never infects Coxhoe Primary School ( or Woodland Junior School ( or Snaith Primary ( where staff seem only too happy to share their resources with anyone who visits their websites. Other teachers generously publish ready-made lessons at sites such as that run by a primary school teacher in Kent (

Visit where, they claim, you can get your hands on 18,000 free educational resources. Or for lessons which real teachers have burnt a North Sea's worth of midnight oil to create - and which you, with no more then a few clicks of the mouse can customise and palm off as your own. You might even feel so grateful that you'll get round to sharing some of you own bright ideas with them.

Because that's what it's like on the web nowadays - or on Web 2.0 as netheads like to call it in recognition of the way that life online is undergoing a fundamental change. The old web (Web 1.0, as nobody called it) is essentially a vast reference library. We're free to wander around being amazed or annoyed by what we find but unable to do much about it. That's no longer good enough. We want to put the "we into web" as they say in Silicon Valley. We want to be proactive. Instead of being passive consumers, we are - to use a word coined by futurologist Alvin Toffler - prosumers, as keen to contribute to the net as to take from it. Each of us seems to be claiming ownership of it while at the same time being happy to share it with everyone else. It's like having a billion flatmates, all mucking in together.

It explains the phenomenal success of peer2peer file sharing which enables subscribers to share their CDs and DVDs just like flatmates would do. allows us to contribute whatever snaps we like to a gargantuan photograph album. Sites like offer a last resting place for our home movies. Fifty million of us regularly blog. If that weren't enough, there are wikis, instant messaging services, chat rooms and countless sites where people with a common interest can congregate.

The most amazing of these community sites must be, a virtual party to which everyone's invited - although, if you're over 20 you'll be as welcome as a dad at a teenage disco. Once they have registered, the pretty young things create their own multimedia web pages in a matter of minutes and then set about frenetically exchanging files, photos and sweet nothings with anyone they fancy. What makes myspace such a remarkable phenomenon is that since its creation only four years ago it has attracted 68 million registered members. That's some party.

Numbers like those make the TES staffroom ( with its 11,800 devotees a modest little get-together - but none the worse for that. Teachers meet here to moan about government policy, their school managers, the children, their workload and their love lives. It's often easier to talk openly to strangers than to colleagues and much more tempting to say exactly what you feel when you can hide your identity behind a nickname.

This site is also the perfect venue for swapping great lesson ideas. The thought of such altruism will have some Ofsted inspectors tut-tutting and at least one headmaster munching the Axminster.

* The TES website now has its own area for teachers to swap resources. You have to register with the site to use it. Check out Resource Bank at

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