More on Pedagogy Anorak

During my last post I googled “pedagogy anorak”.  No results, naturally, so I will claim that phrase.  How do I copyright? 

However I did google “education anorak” and got 8 results!  In fact, one link (with a fruity description) didn’t work, thank goodness,  others just had the two words adjacent, yet another was a load of nonsense.  In fact the only link with the phrase used in a sentence was from, a website concerned with the goings-on at the Houses of Parliament.

So now I am going to set up a Facebook group for anyone, like me and my Mother-in-Law (no, seriously).  People who are not afraid to say they love education & learning, who enjoy talking about it and would even go and visit other schools and (God help us) talk to other teachers about teaching!  So come on.  Fess up.  Are you an anorak too?


Keeping Busy

As somewhat of an pedagogy anorak (if the term doesn’t exist, I’ve just invented it) I love to visit other schools & talk to teachers about teaching.  I’ve found that teachers love to talk about teaching, but oftentimes they can only talk to eachother!  On the odd occasion that you can talk to a lay person about education, that other person is usually a less than impressed parent and the finer points of pedagogic philosphy are somewhat secondary considerations.

Last week I visited Cincinnati Country Day School, one of the biggest Private schools in Cincinnati.  There, I was able to talk to school leaders and discuss their views on school development, marketing (it is the private sector) and management.  What has always impressed me about schools in the United States, both public & private, is the overwhelming centrality that they possess.  Families commit to the lives of their children at school through varied and inventive fund-raising initiatives, innumerable social events throughout the year and, of course, the support of their representative sports teams.

The support of the school’s community is essential.  And, as US schools typify, it is the drive exhibited by the school itself that generates the enthusiasm amongst the parent body that then becomes infectious and pervasive.  Once that is established it is only too easy to recruit the volunteers necessary to organise the PTA events that are so crucial to the life of any school.

Is this the most difficult management task?

This article from the Guardian – How To Ride Out A Media Storm – caught my attention.  Is there really anything more difficult to cope with as a school manager than the day that a serious incident at your school precipates a feeding frenzy by the news media?

How to cope?  Well, as Mike Baker sums up in the article:

The lesson from these cases is that, however unfair a story may be, it’s not a good idea to try to shut the media out and that, in the 24-hour media age, early impressions are vital.

Well he would, wouldn’t he?  We just have to hope that we are not caught by a media snooping around for a scoop.  Then that would be unfair.

Financial Considerations

As a blog about the management of Independent Schools, this choice piece of news from the Guardian on the rise in school fees, is rather sobering.

Fees have become less affordable relative to average earnings, according to Mtmconsulting’s Independent Education Sector Report 2007. Between 2001 and 2006, average school fees rose by 39%, compared with an 18% rise in average earnings. The average pay of managers and professionals – the main customers of private schools – has risen by only 15%.

The report (which at £350 a pop, is not something to purchase anytime soon – I’d rather spend the money on school!) has a short summary which points to such factors the development of niche schools, federations, corporate school groups and the vulnerability of the 14% of parents from outside the business and management classes.

I’m not certain who comissioned this report.  Certainly not the ISC, it seems, as it countered the report by stating:

The fact remains: numbers in the independent sector have risen in 18 of the past 20 years. Costs are an important factor but are not the key or only driver in the choice of independent education. Parents choose independent schools because they provide an outstanding education for children at all levels of ability

I would suggest an additional point to make about the future of independent schools and that is that they will develop a more social consciousness.  There is a contradiction in that schools which require fees are exclusive.  However, and partly because their hand has been forced by the public benefit test, schools will begin to look at their ethos and their curriculum and ask what can be done to ensure their pupils recieve a rich and rewarding experience?

In much the same way that the National Association of Independent Schools in the USA, the independent schools movement the UK has to band together with a clearer, universal set of goals which demonstrate that they are not a set of separate, self-serving entities.  We have it in our gift to offer our pupils an incredibly enriching experience that will provide them with the foundation for a successful life as an active and socially conscious adult. 

Where Are All My Friends?

A meditation on Social Networking…

…The “Invite Friends” option has a curious effect on me.  Do I invite everyone I know?  Do I just click on Doug or Josie or Ewan or someone I know who might just remotely be interested in me?  Or do I just lurk & draw down their feeds?

This unlocks 2 deep psychological issues.  One, a fear that I won’t make any new friends (i.e. my real friends won’t become my part of my online network) and two, that the cool kids (e.g. Doug, Josie…you know who you are!) won’t want to be friends with me!

Do I need 100+ friends?  Or can I get by with the dedicated 1 or 2 who poke me back on Facebook?

Anyway, if anyone does want to be my friend, you can find me at the edge of these playgrounds: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter

BTW – I’m well aware that right now, like many bloggers, I’m probably talking to myself!

On The Diverse Role of The Head

You know how its important to think outside the box in school management? Well here’s a little gem that might help school leaders in dveloping Health & safety policies!!

Incubation Times and Infectivity – Patient UK

Because you never know when you will be called upon to act as an epidemiologist – one of your many roles as a Head!

What A Way to Start

So the new term begins.  And it is not with the air of hope and optimism that we know teachers do bring to their new classes.  Straight away the media have laid into the profession and putting pressure on our creaking and overloaded education system.

Mike Baker, writing for the BBC says:

This week, though, how many teachers are going to be slinking back to school, fearful of the response to “their” exam results?

Combine this with the news that >Ed Balls has written to all heads to ask them to tighen up their ships and one gets a picture of a September that is pretty bleak.

But perhaps we need to be beware of the media spin. To read the press one can only feel that teachers and school leaders are under enormous pressure to perform and is a reality of the contemporary picture of education. However, reading beyond the hype, I am starting to believe more strongly than ever that the pressure comes from without.

Yet this pressure ought not to be laid at the door of the teachers at the chalkface. Good management and school governance can help to ringfence a school from these external pressures. Teachers facilitating learning as they see fit, ensuring that all pupils can achieve clearly defined goals, is surely the bottom line. It is a question of the rhetoric of the press versus the reality of our daily experience as educators.