25 Feb 2015
David Law's plan to second heads of department or heads of year to work in under-performing schools is great (there's plenty of evidence that it works), but pitifully unambitious in its scale - just one hundred placements will be funded (30 of whom will be in the East of England), but here are some lessons learned from previous experience.
My school (I'm chair of govs) works closely with a local school, in the way that Laws envisages, except that ours is a long term relationship, with teachers sharing experiences in each others' schools. It works incredibly well, and we all benefit from the arrangement. It works because we're local and becuase both parties are committed - and because it's a whole school relationship. I can't imagine that taking one or two HoDs, or example, out of our school to work in the other would have anything like the same impact: there would be some, and it would be positiive, but it wouldn't be sustainable.
Furthermore, if we sent a HoD to work in another school at some remove, it would just feel wrong: there would be no real relationship or mutual support and from our point of view, what do we get from it? We've tried this before: an LA about 50 miles away asked us to support four schools in the way that we do with our local one. It was broadly successful in the schools that were interested in working together and a complete waste of time (and extremely frustrating) for those that weren't. However, it didn't last for long as it was incredibly difficult to develop the relationship. Overall, the only tangible benefit was the cash we received, and whether that was enough to justify all the frustration and disappointment was questionable.
So, good luck with this, Mr Laws. Please first ask those schools who have already tried it about lessons learned, and please make sure that the placements engender long tern, positive relationships between schools.
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