Governor’s Corner #5

Governor's Corner

This space is about and for school governors, one of the most underrated sections of leadership inour schools today. It is here for you to share so please leave a comment with your views and any topics you might like to explore!

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Primary Staffing – another Review?

There seem to be a plethora of changes happening in the world of education at the moment and many of them at a speed to spin heads! Governors will be aware initially of the cuts that their schools are facing. Even if there are no explicit budgetary cuts, many of the services provided by the Local Authorities will no longer be available as they rein in their spending resulting in additional expenditure by schools.

Although the proposals set out in the white paper ‘The Importance of Teaching’ have seen some amendments, the Education Bill now going through Parliament will have a major impact on the work of school Governors beyond those opting to look at academy status. The other major initiative taking lots of column inches in the media is the review of the curriculum. This promises to slim down the requirements of the primary curriculum and seeks to introduce the English Baccalaureate at secondary.

However, did you know that there is also a parallel study suggested which will look at the capacity of primary schools to deliver the new curriculum? A review of this type was a major recommendation of the Cambridge Primary Review published last year. This is where the debate about specialist versus generalist teachers comes in. Do schools have the right staff within them to teach a high quality, broad, balanced curriculum?

Traditionally in primary schools teachers have concentrated on the basics (that is where most of the training has gone in recent years) with subjects other than maths and English often being taught by an enthusiast rather than a specialist along the lines of secondary staff.

What impact would a move to more specialists have on primary schools? Would it mean more staff being available and is that logical in times when budgets are being squeezed? The primary approach has always been that everyone can teach most things and that flexibility has provided a rounded experience throughout. However, in order to compete within world markets, do we need to be laying the foundations of specialist teaching earlier? Surely every subject should be taught to the highest standards but what does that REALLY mean for primary schools? 

I suggest that leadership teams including governors need to really look at the curriculum they want to offer. They need to go beyond the straight jacket of literacy and numeracy and be far more creative. They have (apparently!) the freedom now to make choices of exactly what their children will experience and that will differ from school to school. Linking with other establishments including secondary schools will be necessary to provide this but it is now that this thinking and planning needs to take place.

Assuming (and I know it is a BIG assumption) that there will be a greater freedom for curriculum design, what would a review of numbers and roles within your school produce? Have you got the right people providing the right things? Go on engage in some blue sky thinking and leave me your thoughts please!

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