Just a little bloggette to tell you all about the start of what we hope will be a fantastic initiative – the RSA School Governance Network.
The way we govern our schools and colleges is going through a period of upheaval. The DCSF are holding a national review of how English schools (and colleges) are run throughout this year. We’ve also just seen a report into the future of school governance from Business In The Community, following the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report last year.
There are already many models for governing schools emerging as schools become more diverse – academies, trust schools, comps… Many are arguing that governing bodies’ purpose should be holding school heads to account, giving them a narrower focus on academic performance. Earlier indications are that the review may recommend governing bodies should be smaller, with more of an emphasis on skills rather than community representation.
There’s never been a better time to ask what education governance is really for, who should have the right to do it and what practical activities it should be involved in. We’ve had many people say to us that what’s needed is a space for people involved in running schools to exchange ideas and experiences of improving what’s already out there, or even doing something completely new.
That’s the ambition behind the RSA Governance Network. We invited Fellows to tell us what they thought school governance is for, and on the 18th of October a group of volunteers came together to write a vision statement for the new initiative and set its priorities.
Although the network is looking at governance in schools and colleges and very much draws upon the RSA Education Campaign’s Charter, we know governing isn’t about micromanaging classroom teachers but about shared vision and community leadership. What’s really exciting about the network is it’s looking at how we can all get involved in making our local education institutions better at responding to our changing society. It’s about being active citizens.
I’m writing up the workshop’s priorities as a full project proposal at the moment. I’ll share my ideas here very soon. In the mean time, do read the network’s vision statement and have your say here.
In my capacity as an Education Team research elf, I’ve topped and tailed the Christmas holidays with working on one of the background papers for the Future Schools Network. We and our partners at the Innovation Unit are producing a series of these which will all be available online eventually. However, we thought this one, which deals with our aims and ambitions for the Network, could get a bit of a discussion going about where we all want to go with FSN. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Firstly I’ll recap some things you may remember from elsewhere. The Network will bring together up to 30 schools and several other innovation and education experts and decide on up to six key themes for schools in the twenty first century. They’ll develop “next practice” to address each theme and apply them in their schools.
We’re hoping to get two things out of this. It’s hoped this process will create a coherent picture of what a future school could look like. Of course, there’s no one answer to that, but it’s hoped that we can build up an idea of how schools can better serve pupils’ needs.
The Network will also be creating next practice and sharing concrete skills and strategies for addressing our core themes. This will mean producing resources for a wider group of schools to explore, adapt and develop these themes, as in Opening Minds.
The question I’d like to put to you all is what are the working practices that you think will help us achieve all this? There are three types of relationships here; between network members; within school communities; and between people from professional fields outside of teaching. What are the values (such as respect, trust, equality) that we’ll need in the Future Schools Network, and what ways of working will encourage them?
In the last post I mentioned that we visit schools a lot.This means each of the team are in schools every week and have the opportunity to talk to staff and students (though probably not as often with students as we should, and our conversations with staff aren’t as ongoing as we would like).Being in a school is a constant reminder that so much knowledge is created by schools taking some pretty raw ideas and making them work in practice. There’s a close knowledge that only comes from being directly involved in delivery. There are often questions asked by schools thinking about Opening Minds, for example, to which I don’t know the answer. However, I will tend to know someone who does. Almost invariable, they will be people who have had to work through a similar issue in detail to implement change in their school. There’s nothing new to practitioners having tonnes of knowledge that others need.But, what is new is RSA Networks. The RSA is making a major effort to understand how we can create networks which, on their simplest level, mean that you have a connection to the people who you really want to ask questions, and whose questions you can answer. Hopefully it will go beyond simple questioning to sharing ideas and resources, and ultimately making a difference to our schools together. About 90% of you said you would when we surveyed you last term…What will this mean? Well, one of the main things is that the RSA Education team is working to create an online platform for some of this sharing to happen in the Spring. In slightly different ways we hope it will support both Opening Minds, and our RSA Future Schools Network.
We’ll be meeting the web developers again in a few days. Tell me what you think about these ideas, and anything about what you want to see the new site.