Review by Robert Gasson

CEO, Wave Multi-Academy Trust

26 Nov 2022, 5:00

Blog

The Conversation – with Robert Gasson

Autumn windfall

It would be remiss of me to put together what’s happening in the digital staffroom without mentioning conversation about the autumn statement and funding for schools. Obviously much has been written — and will continue to be written — while we wait to see what the promised extra funding looks like.

This blog by the former Bedford Free School founder and principal Mark Lehain, now head of education at the Centre for Policy Studies, makes a short but interesting case for why ministers should consider increasing funds for education.

Non-combative in his reasoning for such an approach (as you might expect from a government supporter), it is hard to argue with his political reasons for doing so. Lehain cites “the noise around School Cuts”, how effective it was at getting through to voters and the growing appeal of its message “even [to] moderates”.

As we all know, the government clearly heard the message. But the fact is that even with the proposed increase in funding, as was articulated recently in these pages unless the DfE and ESFA come up with a mechanism that avoids councils’ high-needs budgets to ensure the funding reaches special and AP schools, the most vulnerable and challenging pupils in our system will face a significant real-terms cut in funding.

I’m happy to help (as are many of my colleagues) with suggestions as to how to this can be achieved.

The fall of Twitter

Like many of my colleagues, I use Twitter as a tool to share ideas, to give a flavour of what is happening in my schools and to gather best practice. And like many, I’ve been watching horrified at what appears to be the imminent implosion of a social media platform that has been instrumental for the education sector for many years. 

This blog by Connor Gleason, who has spent the past decade working in marketing and communications with independent schools and colleges in the US, takes us through a coherent, relevant and timely series of questions and scenarios that I’m sure many of us have struggled with recently.

I treat what I tweet with a great deal of care, so it is perhaps disappointing to find out from Connor that (in the US at least) “only 11% of all parents, across the four generations in schools, say they tweet or follow Twitter posts always or often”. Even among the youngest parents, 79% of Gen Z parents say they never use the platform.

But while Twitter may be only the world’s seventh-largest social media platform, it has been essential for professional learning networks and it’s clear it would be missed. So I am adopting a wait-and-see approach, and I’ll keep coming back to this post to help me to decide whether and when to take myself and my schools elsewhere.

Heading for a fall

The Two Heads podcast, featuring headteachers Jonathan Rice and Sarah Shirras, is a must-listen for the sector. More than that, I would urge Gillian Keegan and her ministerial team to listen to this week’s episode, recorded in front of a live audience at Educate Norfolk, for an unfiltered view of how school leaders are really feeling. Question Time, eat your heart out!

This episode sounds and feels like the type of conversation you might have in the bar at a conference. That’s not a criticism. It’s one of its strengths. The hot topic is the significant worries around funding and how this is manifesting through recruitment and retention challenges, as well as worries about having to make significant cuts through redundancies. 

The episode also covers leaders’ concerns about possible strike action, including potentially their own, as well as the increasing needs of pupils, which are driving some to take decisions that are solutions for them but problematic for the system as a whole, namely by raising the number of exclusions.

The podcast completely chimes with the discussions I have been having recently everywhere from Tyneside to Penzance. And while it’s short on solutions, its candour is refreshing, not to say therapeutic.

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