Today (well, actually only this afternoon - how do these things all squeeze in?) was spent working at both ends of our spectrum of schools.
First up was a journey to Gawcott Infant School near Buckingham. The part of Bucks north of Aylesbury has Buckingham, Winslow (half way to Buckingham), Wing (on the way to Milton Keynes) and... well, that's not it but there's a plethora of small schools serving the villages dotted in between the few towns. Different organisations have different defintions of what counts as "small" - but under 100 pupils would be a good guide. An easy line to drop used to be that one of our small schools had more governors than pupils (which was, I believe, true at once stage) but that's no longer the case.
The situation now is that we have a number of "split" infant schools - schools which have joined together to make sure that they are viable, can share resources, etc. Gawcott is "joined" with Tingewick, for example and the need to communicate and share, particularly when:
- staff work at both sites (and often part-time);
- able pupils might be in a group of two or three and need challenge and resources from outside of the school;
- a group of small schools might want to work together.
Many of the same people who were at the Moodle training were there as well (when you have two members of staff in your school, it's a fairly safe bet that that's going to happen) and it went pretty well. Mike W (County ICT adviser) arrived for the first ten minutes and then went to work at home so that he could demonstrate how well the system works over a standard home ADSL connection. We hope to have a test meeting on Friday sometime with people in their own schools (or at home) and I'm quite excited about some of the ideas which could come out of this group, for whom communication and collaboration isn't a luxury but a necessity. I was supposed to have stayed until 3.30 but had to dash at about 3pm...
The next appointment was with the Secondary Consultative Board to explain county policy on VLEs and Learning Platforms (LPs). Buckinghamshire is a very different county from the last one I worked in (Herts next door) - schools are often fiercely independent in many ways and in terms of ICT (for example) there have been issues with broadband provision (due to a previously unsatisfactory service offered through a major provider via SEGfL) which were resolved over three years ago. Now (and I would say this, wouldn't I) we're in a position of having what's been described to me as "something that sounds suspiciously like joined up thinking" in terms of our developments about LPs, but if I was a school I'd understandably have reservations about a centrally hosted and offered service. Primaries are different - there are few primaries who could go through the rigmarole of the procurement process on their own, and I would suggest that this is could also be quite a task for a secondary school which has pupils still filling its classrooms and requiring attention.
The main points the board made were about sharing and collaboration - the things which will power any aggregated region-wide VLE or LP (and, ironically, are the same reasons for the small schools getting involved as described above) and how we should use Specialist Schools and ASTs (Advanced Skills Teachers), who are significantly funded by the Local Authority, to develop and share resources - with Specialist Schools leading the development of resources for all schools to support their specialism (and share this with other schools in a reciprocal fashion). This is an exciting development and with commitment from secondaries we could easily see (and even surpass) the sort of collaboration which is being undertaken in primaries. There are already many people talking about transition and cross-phase resources, wouldn't it be great to crack that soon?