Spending cuts: how much do they know?

I’m running a series of briefings for teachers about the future of our services and what they need to be doing right now. We were about to launch a really exciting new phase of projects in school but of course, this has now been changed and we’re still waiting to see what the replacement will look like.

Sprinkle liberally

 I planned to talk about these changes and link them to the wider picture in education by talking about the white paper. I had an emergency PowerPoint on the white paper courtesy if the DfE but I thought the teachers would know what was in it and I’d only need to chat briefly about it.

 Wrong.

 ‘So who’s read the white paper then,’ I asked cheerily.

 Silence.

 ‘Who knows the things in the white paper that will affect your day to day working life?’

 A tumbleweed rolled by.

 So I spent more time than I intended on informing the group about the white paper and how it will affect their schools: changes in behaviour management, a greater focus on bullying and synthetic phonics (luckily the two are not inter-related), exclusions, academies and free schools. Their head teachers are probably well-informed but sometimes the infromation doesn’t always filter down to the class teachers.

 The other aspect of the changes they weren’t entirely aware of were the cuts in local authority staff. My lot know that my post has been deleted but I don’t think they yet realise the implications of this. When they need me they pick up the phone and ask or drop me e-mail and I help to the best of my abilities. It’s my job.

 A head teacher phoned me this morning and explained that some of her parents were very anxious about a certain policy the school had just redeveloped and how she wasn’t sure what to do.

 ‘Would you like me to come and run a workshop for your parents?’ I said.

 ‘You’ve just sprinkled magic fairy dust over my day!’ she replied.

 I think this means she was pleased. And it solves everyone’s problems: the parents are reassured and informed, the staff can get back to teaching and I’ve got the knowledge at my fingertips to run sessions like these.

 It will be interesting to see how schools react when they don’t have the support of staff  whose job it is to translate government policy, share their expertise with schools and be there for them. Sometimes just for a chat and a bit of support and maybe to sprinkle a little fairy dust on someone’s day.

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Power to the pupils!

One thing I really enjoy about working with London school is the students. Despite what the media might have us think, they’re not all knife-wielding, granny-robbing hoodies. The ones I meet through my day to day work are often articulate, feisty and funny. Pupils at Little Ilford comprehensive school in Newham are a fine example: the school was due a multi-million pound rebuild as part of the Building Schools for the future (BSF) programme. As with many schools, this funding has now been cut and the building work will not go ahead.

 The pupils have not taken this lying down. They have made a film protesting at the lack of funding and are presenting the film and their campaign to the Prime Minister today. Far from moaning about specific grievances, the film includes soundbites from pupils, teachers, parents and community members about how much their school means to them. This is clearly a school that takes its position in the community very seriously.

 What I admire about Little Ilford film is the fact that thepupils are clearly proud of their school and that’s the biggest recommendation anyone can have. I don’t work in Newham so I have no vested interest in this story but I like to see ordinary people taking a stand so best of luck to the whole school community.

EZ council my RS

There was a lot of fuss last year when Barnet council announced that it would be adopting a ‘no frills’ service. An ‘Easy’ council if you like. Residents would get a very basic service and any extras would have to be paid for. Many services would be outsourced from private companies while council staffing is cut.

 But the peasants are revolting. Barnet residents haven’t taken this lying down- there have been a series of demonstrations and meetings calling for an end to the cost cutting, especially when the most vulnerable members of society –the elderly and very young- are involved. There is a campaign to keep libraries open after it was suggested that reading real books was a rather outmoded idea and that residents who wished to cling to their old ways could pick up their books in Tesco’s and pop along to Starbucks to have a read.

 Meanwhile Lambeth council have announced plans to become a cooperative (I hope they do those nice fairtade chocolates) and encourage local community groups and individuals to help run things. Well that’s me sorted out after redundancy from my own council then. Perhaps I’ll pop along to Brixton town hall and offer my services to housing. Maybe take a broom with me and give Rush Common a little sweep on the way.

 I wonder how many other councils will choose the no frills option or the cooperative route after the Comprehensive Spending Review and whether this is the future model for council services.

 This summer I went on holiday with EasyJet. I took my own snacks (£4.50 for a buttie? You’re having a laugh), I packed light so I didn’t incur luggage penalties and I queued. And I queued and I queued. There was rather a Dunkirk spirit about it as we swapped horror stories. A mother travelling alone with three children under the age of seven told me how she was separated from her kids on the flight over because there weren’t four seats together. The mum pointed to her toddler who was sucking her thumb and clutching a blankie.

‘They wanted her sit on her own!’ she said.

 Well the flight- perhaps like the easy council model- did what it was supposed to do and got me quite nicely from A to B eventually.

 An adequate, basic service.

 But I’d rather travel BA.

 Wouldn’t you?

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