Review by Julia Skinner

Retired head and founder of the 100-Word Challenge

26 Jan 2020, 5:00


Julia Skinner’s top edu blogs of the week, 20 January 2020

Cultural capital, lifelong learning, diversity, leadership and, of course, governance are Julia Skinner’s top picks of this week’s education topics

Cultural Capital Matters


As soon as the word ‘culture’ became prominent in Ofsted’s frameworks, its definition has been the subject of much debate, some of it heated, and I have to admit that I’m still thinking about exactly what Cultural Capital is. This post helped. It has so many layers to it that it is hard to do it full justice here, but in essence it looks at cultural capital from the perspective of those disadvantaged pupils who are often the focus of extra-curricular activities. It argues that building cultural capital means much more than just taking children out of school (although that is a key part), and it questions the middle-class values that often underpin our efforts. Ultimately, the author embraces those, while  maintaining that cultural capital is also about the pupils themselves seeing purpose, not only in the curriculum, but in learning itself.


Education Backwards


This piece really resonated with me because I’m one of those who has learnt a great deal since retiring. The author lays out some thoughts on the assumptions we make about learners – academic or not – and about when learning actually takes place. For many, learning is simply something that happens at school, but given the number of pupils who don’t like school this would exclude swathes of people. However, many like myself and the subjects in this piece find learning in later life. So what about lifelong learning? Does the idea threaten our notions of the importance of school or, as Dr Crawford asks, should we be thinking more about what part schools play in nurturing its seeds?


Championing Diversity in school governance


For once, there is some good news on the make-up of governing boards in terms of diversity, but there is still a long way to go. Emma Knights, CEO of the National Association of Governance, explains how various campaigns have resulted in positive trends, but that the number of governors from ethnic minority groups is still very small. The NGA’s work on this continues, she says, while LGBT inclusion is also a focus for this year. The numbers don’t lie, and this post is an important one for school boards, especially as it sets out the government’s commitment to increasing diversity in governance, and its prominent place in new guidance.


The difference good governance can make to a school


Governance is something that for many means absolutely nothing – a familiar concept for school leaders, but a nebulous one for everybody else. Here, Martin Matthews sets out to clear the fog and put governance in terms that non-educationalists can understand, and ends with a powerful reminder that, while governors and trustees may be volunteers, they are by no means amateurs.


Thinking differently about school leadership


Whilst I found this post and the one from @TomRees_77 that it is responding to very thought-provoking, I was disappointed that neither mentioned governance. I nodded along enthusiastically to Stoneman’s description of leadership as engaging staff to ‘get on the bus’. I did that, and I also had many a conversation about what makes a good leader. It is refreshing to see that the notion of the heroic headteacher is finally being recognised as unsustainable and fundamentally inappropriate. However, the lack of any mention of governance makes me wonder whether this new dawn will be as successful as it might be.


Learn about Amanda Timcke’s first hand experience of becoming a school governor


Posts about being a school governor can sometimes feel a little repetitive, but this one shared by Governors for Schools is a little different. Amanda Timcke has the kind of profile most governing boards would leap at, and yet she found it took her nearly a year to fully get up to speed with the expectations of the role. The list of skills and experiences Timcke has developed in the role a great advert for governance and truly emphasise the importance it should have in our schools. The post also serves as a useful reminder that great governors aren’t born; they are made.

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