Review by Julia Skinner

Retired head and founder of the 100-Word Challenge

14 Mar 2020, 5:00


Julia Skinner’s top edu blogs of the week, 9 March 2020

Implementing policy, retention, ethical leadership and peer review are among Julia Skinner’s top picks of the education topics this week

Discover the practicalities of implementing 30 hours free childcare


The government is giving schools money for early years (hurrah!). Unfortunately, delivering on its aims of providing free childcare for three- and four-year-olds is not as easy as one might imagine. In fact, having been a governor on the board of a nursery, I can tell you it is one of the most complicated financial balancing acts in education. So much so that the basis of this blog is the need for primary schools with nursery provision seriously to undertake feasibility studies. With its looming threat of closure and redundancies, this post is both a wake-up call and a really useful starting point for school business managers.

How to deal with negative teachers


On the subject of retention… One thing governors soon learn is that you can only work with what you have, be it a decrepit building, a shortage of pupils, argumentative parents or a lack of funding. We are a band of volunteers who do what we can to bring about improvements, often in quite restrictive environments. One thing we do have some influence over is the ethos of the school, what it feels like to work there. 

This article highlights the effect negative teachers can have, not necessarily on children’s learning but on the whole culture of a school. Throughout, Dabell keeps a positive outlook, reminding us that even the most jaded “had zing and buzz once and need help to get it back”. It’ll take more than biscuits in the staff room, but it’s both possible and – in this age of recruitment and retention crisis – certainly worthwhile.

Ethical Leadership in Education: accountability is not enough – we have to do good


Do we want to retain staff for our own needs? Or are we doing it for them? It’s the kind of question the Framework for Ethical Leadership will have you rightly pondering. The Pathfinder schools that have set out to fully embrace and evidence the 2017 framework are now around 200 in number, so things look promising. This piece from the chair of the commission explains that while things have started well, there is still a long way to go before an ethical approach to education is part of the daily fabric of all our schools. It is an area governors should be looking at closely, as vision and values are a core purpose of their role.

Finding our way through the educational moral maze


Another of my top picks this week reports from the ethical leadership summit. Vicci Wells, whose writing is always both passionate and sensible, begins by reminding us of the power of words to shape, and to help us reflect on, our actions. From personal anecdotes of her experiences as governor, she goes on to recount the day’s major themes and how they are directly relevant to her school, MAT and governorship. It’s a great reminder that the right training is invaluable for governors, and that ethics is central to our sense of purpose individually and as organisations.

Collaboration and peer review: a path for trusts


But how ethical can an organisation really be? This blog opens on the difference between an organisation and an institute, the former being primarily self-interested while the latter’s purpose is outward-facing. Tom Glover points out that self-interest and competition don’t sit well with education. He goes on to describe a growing trend of mutual support and challenge in the form of peer review.

I was disappointed to see no mention of governance in this push for collaboration and I felt it was an opportunity lost. As a volunteer group whose members are often working out of their comfort zones, governors and trustees arguably need the support of their peers more than school executives. Let’s hope that as this approach is rolled out, school boards are included.

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