Warwick Mansell reports on the secondary school where teachers are calling the curriculum shots
Teachers at a Bristol comprehensive are drawing up radical changes to the curriculum after their head took the bold decision to give them more power over school decision-making.
Staff at Ashton Park secondary were asked to come up with proposals after Chris Gardner, the head teacher, said he needed fresh ideas after 10 years in the job.
Now, in a move that the Secondary Heads Association said was part of a growing trend to involve classroom teachers in school development, 36 staff are working on detailed proposals.
The signs are that change will be fundamental, especially at key stage 3, where teachers decided that the curriculum was a turn-off and have set about re-engineering it.
Mr Gardner said teachers believed KS3 lessons were too content-heavy, with the emphasis on spoon-feeding pupils rather than promoting qualities such as research skills and team working.
The curriculum revamp will focus on these areas. It will also introduce reward schemes for hard-working pupils.
Mr Gardner has given four teachers time away from lessons to investigate how to make learning more interesting for pupils, partly by taking advantage of technology.
Some teenagers will work alongside the teachers in the first move under the new "Enquiring Minds" scheme, a bid by Nesta Futurelab - the National Lottery-funded body that promotes creativity - and the software firm Microsoft to promote pupil research.
Teachers also want to launch a house system, giving pupils from different years a sense of community, and introduce changes to homework, putting a greater emphasis on project work.
The scheme is still in its early stages, and teachers' proposals will not be sent to Mr Gardner and the school's governors for final approval until next autumn. However, the headteacher said the initial suggestions were encouraging, vindicating a decision that he had taken with some trepidation.
He said: "I was certainly nervous about passing the responsibility on to the staff, but felt that if we wanted to move the school on, we had to get everyone moving in the same direction. Dictator-style leadership does not always work."
Martin Ward, deputy general secretary of SHA, said: "I don't think Mr Gardner is the first person to think of such an idea, but I'm all for it.
"Schools have highly educated, intelligent workforces. Who is better placed to know how to do the job than the people who are doing it?"