Sunday, 18 October 2009

Have We Never Had it So Good?

I cannot have been the only Assistant Principal who wondered a few weeks ago. ‘Will there be a job still for me in the 2 billion pound cuts of the future?’Ed Balls has said that money will be saved by cutting bureaucracy and creating school federations - reducing the number of senior leaders. Jobs, he has said, will be lost through ‘natural wastage’. For the first time the recession that has been so real for architect and banker friends threatens to impact on us in the sheltered public sector. Eek.

As a historian I find it fascinating to think about how the present will be viewed in the future. Will the Naughties be the time ‘we never had it so good’. It is easy to forget the changes we have witnessed. Some are huge whilst others are little ideas that have made a big difference.Going to school in Cardiff, the largest comprehensive in Wales, I remember the building was crumbling - the paint literally peeling off the walls. There were frequent teacher strikes and a boycott of school trips because of pay cuts. Since 1997, 4000 schools have been built, rebuilt or refurbished including four in the local area. It is now standard to have computers and interactive white boards in classrooms, smaller classes supported by teaching assistants and different activities provided in after school clubs. Have we already forgotten the days of buying our own coloured pencils and booking the TV and video for a special showing of History File?

When I started teaching I was inspired by the promise of investment in the profession both in terms of salary and status. I have been lucky enough to benefit from two professional development programmes Fast Track and now Future Leaders. Having the opportunity to visit schools in Boston as part of the programme was incredible and made me realise what was possible.Then there are the little things. Booked Up is a scheme which gives all Year 7 students a free book which they can choose. There is a well established link between poverty and low literacy levels so this scheme is a simple idea that gets children talking about books as well as the joy of owning their own copy.

So will Future Leaders programme survive the cuts? Will there be jobs for us in the senior leadership teams of the future?What is most important is that when decisions are made about how money should be saved, the most important criteria should be - how does this impact on young people? Effective leadership is essential in good schools and though it may be tempting to save cash by cutting expensive senior positions, care needs to be taken that the gains that have been made in the last decade are not squandered because ‘management’ is not a popular way to spend money.

People are the most important resource in our education system. People need to be the spending priority.

But then I would say that.

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