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Inside Teaching : October 2010
Inside Teaching | October 2010 20 QUESTIONS 40 It should never be done from a centrally determined group. A high level of autonomy is needed if we are to personalise learning. There has to be a partnership between schools and their community if schools are to be valued and thus get support and meaningful links with their communities. My father was the principal of a technical school, a very good one, and back then all technical schools had to have a school council and had to have representatives of business and industry on board. Some very influential people, household names, served. My father was in control of his budget. An enormous amount was lost when technical schools were abolished. Schools all offered the same things afterwards. We recognise, 30 years later, that technical schools had it right. All schools are different and central control stands in the way of schools delivering educational uniqueness. The driving force of a school should always be to achieve better outcomes for children. In a world where schools move ahead based on the strength of their partnerships, what happens to those students who, for whatever reasons, go to a school where meaningful partnerships don’t happen? It is more difficult in small locations, rural and remote areas. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. What you can have, if you take a state like Tasmania, is partnerships with industries that are statewide which can support the smaller schools. In district high schools with a farm, such as Sheffield, there can be natural partnerships with the agricultural industry. Rosebery District High, when my co- author Jim Spinks was principal, had very close links with the mining industry. Key personnel from there were on the council. Rosebery’s council became a model for school councils in New Zealand, England and other countries. Jim is currently in Finland teaching school leaders in that country’s remarkable system. In a school operating 24 hours a day, what might be happening at 6pm? At 6am? It’s not schools operating 24 hours a day but learning that can occur anytime, anywhere, 24 hours a day. People who don’t approve of the move towards schools forming two-way beneficial relationships with outside organisations often cite the case of an organisation like McDonalds sponsoring a school. How might a partnership with a McDonalds work successfully for both parties? McDonalds complained once when I talked about this and two senior staff came out to set me straight on the matter. One thing that is working is its program on mathematical skills for the 75,000 kids working for them. Secondary schools can access this program and the ratings by principals surveyed after doing this have generally been very positive. Half a million kids have learned from this. The other kind of partnership is local fundraising if you can advertise products in the school. Not too many schools do this and I’m not sure this is such a good thing compared to the former, which is a natural connection with a big employer of youth. Many civic leaders have built skills working for McDonalds. Ronald McDonald House provides a residence for families of young cancer sufferers, with an educational component that is very hard to match. One of my roles is an associate director of the Specialist and Schools Academies Trust in England. Starting under Margaret Thatcher and continuing under Tony Blair, every school was encouraged to form partnerships with business and industry. More than 3,000 or 95 per cent of high schools have partnerships related to their specialisations. Schools address a national curriculum but have specialisations in 12 areas. For example, sport, music, technology, maths, science. Each school has a