Education News Unleashed

That Dreadful Business

Dame Pat Collarbone, as the Director of the National Remodelling Team (NRT), established by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), has been tasked to execute a three-year program to reform the school workforce. However, she does not approve of the use of the phrase “workforce remodelling” as it indicates that schools will merely follow the changes imposed upon them. Instead, Collarbone is promoting the idea that schools must take an active role in driving the changes forward and this action will be done by using the expertise of their staff to formulate ideas and come up with better policies.

Although the government claimed that they have involved more teachers in the consultation of the workload than any other single issue, Collarbone concedes that the NRT must make the message more comprehensible to teachers as she believes that this issue is critical. Although the National Union of Teachers (NUT) is still not supportive of the agenda, the pathfinder schools’ experience shows that the qualified teachers’ job position will not get undermined. However, the NRT is still unaware if the workforce agreement has been fully implemented or not, and it will be at least a month before they can evaluate the implementation’s progress.

In its initial year, the NRT will involve 1,300 schools in the remodelling process, which will increase to 7,500 schools in the second year, and by 2006, every school will be involved. The change agents will be comprised of various people from different schools, including dinner ladies and headteachers, among others. The change agents will communicate the changes to staff, students, parents, local authorities, and the DfES to ensure that the alterations are effectively managed.

Collarbone emphasizes that the school educators will remain primarily responsible for the front-line work with schools. The NRT aims to learn and encourage international best practices. A group of heads from Gloucestershire who had been working with heads in Melbourne came back from their placements, elated because their horizons had broadened, and they could now view things differently. Capturing good and useful ideas to encourage people to get passionate and excited about teaching and learning is one of the NRT’s objectives.

Initially, the NRT worked closely with 32 "pathfinder schools," recognized by the DfES for their innovative use of technology such as smart-boards. Pathfinders are willing to discuss and share their innovations with other schools, and every local authority is requested to elect an early adopter school that will disseminate best practices throughout the region. Technology will play a significant role, with some schools in the pathfinder program utilizing smart-boards to make teachers feel less isolated and promote individualized learning plans. Not all innovations are costly, and one of the best ideas taken up by a group from Birmingham was for teachers to use headsets with inbuilt microphones, costing £750 apiece. The children stayed engaged, focused, and improved their behavior and learning habits.

The NRT’s most significant challenge is abandonment as all innovations come with a risk that established routines may be disrupted and some existing practices may no longer be necessary.

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