Start with the core issues

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
Barbara Redhead, one of the first heads to glimpse workforce reforms, has yet to be convinced

I have just returned from my third day of training for primary heads who are taking on the workforce remodelling agenda sooner than others. The course for early adopter schools (see box), alas, was characterised by the recycling of some old, but occasionally interesting, management change tools.

Where is remodelling going wrong? Schools' core purpose is to educate children. When training takes place with teachers, lunchtime assistants, classroom support and admin staff we start by asking how this work supports pupils' learning and how it can be improved. The re-modelling agenda brings together several issues: * the plateau in literacy and numeracy results; * special educational needs and inclusion; * the Excellence and Enjoyment document focusing on the need for a balanced, exciting curriculum; * young teachers leaving the profession and workload issues for all teachers; * funding.

The first three are about curriculum and the last two about the staff who teach it. Unfortunately workforce re-modelling training has concentrated on the last two, not the first three.

I support the remodelling agenda principles of modernising the school workforce. I believe the school curriculum should be its driving force. In our school we have pump-primed change by going into a planned deficit.

Until the National Remodelling Team and other national bodies work at the speed of schools we cannot wait for them. So using our funding as wisely as possible we have devised an integrated curriculum, with genuine links between subjects or stand-alone teaching.

All is saved on to the school server. Teachers download their medium-term planning each half-term and then plan individual weekly lessons. The resources are stored in well-marked plastic boxes organised by curriculum managers. Resourcing is targeted and accurate. Information communications technology resources and websites are saved as curriculum links on to the curriculum plans.

We have changed our school hours. This is not to do with non-contact time but work-life balance. By having two hours on a Friday afternoon staff can plan together for the following week and have a work-free weekend.

Work-life balance does not seem to be part of re-modelling. Why not?

Restructuring can tie in with redesigning the personal, social and health education curriculum. Let us look at all the issues that society needs schools to help address and write a curriculum for classroom assistants to deliver to groups of pupils. This could really bring enrichment, breadth and balance. We plan to develop this but national support would be appreciated.

We have organised preparation time by trialling lead lessons (where the teacher takes a big group - possibly two classes at once - with the support of classroom assistants), paired lessons and planned absence cover, all using a teacher and two classroom assistants working within the school marking, behaviour and training policies. We have rewritten job descriptions to merge lunchtime and classroom assistant work. All these approaches are supportive of school standards.

As the third day of training for the schools adopting remodelling early drew to a close I was assured that there was one slide about the curriculum. We really are in desperate need of joined-up thinking at the highest levels. Yes, job descriptions, single status and contracts are important. But let us drive school change by its core purpose - the curriculum.

Barbara Redhead, headteacher, Wyndham primary, Newcastle

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