So you want to sell me a story...

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
Why do teachers do what they do? What are schools for? These philosophical questions are important, but I wonder how often heads or rank-and-file teachers consider them.

When I am not attempting the impossible as chair of governors of a secondary school, I run a consultancy business helping organisations in what is now called the social economy - charities, social enterprises, community centres, not-for-profit organisations.

One of the things we do is to run training courses on fundraising techniques for charities in Wales. Lately, I have been commissioned to present a series of workshops tailored for heads and other senior staff.

This is prompted by the need to gear up for the community schools initiative in Wales, and also to find ongoing or start-up funding for after-school learning.

I pontificate about the ways in which they can access charitable funds. I talk about how few charitable trusts were left by the magnates of the 19th century who shaped the industrial revolution in Wales. I explain how few companies have their head offices in Wales, and hence the remoteness of their decision-making.

Then, in true active-learning style, I ask them to describe a project, why it is needed and ask for the money required in a concise 30 words. This fits conveniently on a flip-chart page with my appalling un-teacher-like writing. Essentially, I am asking them to write the first paragraph of their funding application. This is the paragraph that grabs the attention of the person with the money.

The heads and senior teachers were mostly looking for money for after-school clubs - improving literacy and numeracy. But they all fell into the trap of looking at process and not at outcomes, still less at vision. They described what they wanted to do, but did not explain why this was of value. To them the worth of education is self-evident.

But why should a local engineering business provide money for an out-of-school literacy class? The teachers looked surprised when I asked them to explain how this could benefit wider society.

I am minded of the old story of the three men on a building site. One was laying bricks, one was making a wall, the last was building a cathedral.

These teachers are managing schools rather than educating the next generation of people who will run the world.

Martin Price is chair of governors at St Richard Gwyn RC high school, Barry, Vale of Glamorgan

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