Top head bids farewell with CPD plea

30th July 2010 at 01:00
Teacher-training pioneer Ian Garrero retires amid Estyn plaudits, but issues parting shot at `myopic' cuts

As one of the most successful headteachers in Wales, Ian Garrero knows the importance of having highly trained and motivated staff.

Dr Garrero, who retired from Bassaleg School in Newport last week, encouraged his teachers to always improve their skills, with many completing masters degrees at the school's expense.

As he prepared for retirement, Dr Garrero's approach was more than vindicated by teaching watchdog Estyn, which gave Bassaleg top grades in all seven inspection categories.

The school "achieves exceptionally high standards of achievement as a result of innovative and consistently high-quality teaching and leadership", inspectors said.

Between 2004 and 2009, just 14 out of the 184 secondary schools inspected by Estyn gained Grade 1s across the board.

"It's an excellent way to go into retirement and a testimony to all the hard work going on in the school," Dr Garrero said.

But while his school has excelled, Dr Garrero is worried that others may not have the same opportunity after the Assembly government decided to scrap individual continuing professional development (CPD) funding for teachers - a move he describes as "ill-advised and myopic".

"The best resource in a school is the staff and you have got to invest in them, to help them develop and keep up to date with current trends in education," he said. "I think education will suffer as a consequence of this decision."

Many of Bassaleg's teachers are at the cutting edge of educational research, having gained masters degrees at various Welsh universities while teaching.

The school encourages its staff to take such courses, paying two-thirds of their tuition fees provided their studies benefit Bassaleg and its pupils. Many have subsequently been asked to share their knowledge with teachers at other schools in Newport and beyond.

Despite the pressure this puts on Bassaleg's finances and resources, Dr Garrero, who was at the school for 25 years, said it is vital to the school's future success.

"If an individual develops professionally then the school's going to benefit too," he said. "My staff are very professional and optimistic about what they can do and what they can achieve with their pupils.

"Whatever stage we are at as a school, we are never satisfied. We want to improve all the time. That's an attribute of a successful school."

Dr Garrero started his teaching career at Caldicot Comprehensive in 1970 where he taught technology then RE, before becoming a senior teacher at Nantyglo Comprehensive and then head of Bassaleg in 1985.

During his tenure at Bassaleg, ten teachers have been promoted to headship at other schools, while many more have left to become deputies and heads of department.

Dr Garrero said strong leadership modelled throughout the school has been one of the keys to the school's success, as well as having staff members ready and willing to embrace new ideas.

He said his proudest achievement as head is that the school has constantly improved under his watch.

"I have been very fulfilled professionally," he said. "I'm proud to have helped produce well-rounded young people suitably educated for university or employment. The children are committed to learn, we have supportive parents, a hard-working governing body and outstanding teachers. That's a formula for success any day of the week."

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