Who got that job?

13th November 2009 at 00:00
Ever wondered who got a job you saw advertised in The TESS? It took something out of the ordinary for Irene Matier to move

In an ideal world, Irene Matier would never have left Caledonia Primary. She had enjoyed 18 years at her "really lovely" school in Glasgow, 17 as head. Latterly she became principal of one of the city's "learning communities" - usually a role for secondary heads - and revelled in the chance to work closely with colleagues in the Bannerman High area.

Then the city council removed funding that allowed the likes of Mrs Matier to spend two days a week on her role as principal and earn an extra pound;5,000. Money wasn't an issue, but time was. "They're hoping the heads will simply carry on anyway, but it's difficult because everybody's got their own jobs," she says.

It took something out of the ordinary to tempt Mrs Matier, 55, away from the family atmosphere of her 174-pupil school.

Jordanhill School, where she is head of primary, is unique among Scottish state schools. Not only can pupils spend all their years here, it is also funded directly by the Scottish Government. For Mrs Matier, shaking off local authority control was a long-held ambition.

"My workload isn't any lighter, but everything we do here is self- generated," she says. "The flipside is accountability: if something goes wrong, it's our fault, at the end of the day".

The school's large size allows her to focus on education. "The leaky roof is not my problem," she explains, as she can call on office staff "like you would get in a secondary school".

To her surprise, she has discovered a family atmosphere akin to that at Caledonia. The primary and secondary parts of the 1,100-pupil school are not strictly separated. Sixth-years volunteer to help in primary classes, and it is not uncommon to see older pupils holding hands with P1s as they take them to class. There are few problems with transition, since pupils know each other and teachers mingle in the staffroom. In some cases, progress speeds up. The close connections between primary and secondary also make it easier to implement A Curriculum for Excellence.

Mrs Matier has to juggle her job with the presidency of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes Scotland, but has no worries being out of school: "This place is like a well-oiled machine".

Perhaps the only drawbacks are logistical, with parts of the school off- limits during exams. Mrs Matier also has to remind herself that there is a depute head and head at the secondary who often need to be consulted.

If it could be done tomorrow, Mrs Matier would have shared campuses throughout Scotland, all directly funded, although she knows the idea would not enthuse every headteacher: "If you're expected to be accountable for children's attainment and achievement, you should be given the authority of the budget."

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