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Views Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA)

Schools become increasingly positive about funding and curriculum change


eoff Williams was a primary and middle school headteacher for 28 years, working in schools in Northamptonshire and Devon. He was inspired by his daughter to volunteer with VSO in Namibia and Papua New Guinea; here he tells his story.

For my wife Heather and I our initial inspiration to volunteer with VSO was our own daughter, Catherine, who volunteered in Ethiopia as a teacher in 2002-04. When we visited her, we were struck by the poverty: the lack of water and electricity in particular. But we were also struck by the keenness to learn of the students in her school.

I knew almost nothing about the two countries where I volunteered. To me, one of the fantastic things about VSO is how challenges were offered that I would have never previously considered, simply because I did not actually know what it is like in these countries and would never have chosen to visit them. How wonderful it was to be launched into the unknown. When volunteering overseas, understanding the local culture is absolutely essential for anything one does to be successful, much more important than technical knowledge and skills. To develop that understanding quickly, it was vital for Heather and I to spend time socially with colleagues and members of the community, listening, laughing and talking.

Heather and I volunteered together when we retired, going to Papua New Guinea for seven months in 2012. It was very exciting to be part of the introduction of free universal primary education which had only been introduced 2 years before we arrived. Local villages had built their own elementary schools from local bush materials of rough wood and bamboo. Most classrooms were simply a chalkboard. Many children particularly in the first four grades sat on the floor. The day's lessons would be put on the board in columns. The teaching was chalk and talk. Keeping teachers in the classroom was a perennial problem. Text books were in very short supply, they either came from EU Aid or Aus Aid. Where they existed they were of good quality, but often just the teacher would have a text book. Having gone through so many innovations in our career it was easy to see where the system was and what skills and experience colleagues possessed. Having done that, we had to decide on the most helpful next step, either institutionally or personally. For one senior inspector in Papua New Guinea it was helping him see how to plan his week and simply letting his clerical support know where he was. For a headteacher in Namibia, it was helping him to read and explain a letter explaining percentage targets. He did not understand percentages, as his own education had been stopped at grade 6 under the apartheid system. The type of personal advice they needed is only acceptable when genuine friendship has been established. When one is trusted, people approach you with their personal needs that might have very little to do with the job description, but is a great privilege to be asked. Some people ask me if my volunteer placements were life changing experiences. For me they were more life enhancing than changing. That may partly be because at the stage in life that Heather and I volunteered, one knows oneself fairly well to begin with.

On my volunteering placements, I learnt to love simplicity, to value people and living a worthwhile life above all. I learned to love being a member of the whole world. I would undoubtedly recommend the experience to someone, provided they had the personal resilience and the circumstances that made it possible.

u020 8780 7500

June 2014

ur role as the sector’s trade

association involves working closely with the Government, schools and suppliers to ensure the delivery of the best quality resources in to schools to meet changing requirements of the classroom and

curriculum. While we meet with schools on a regular basis, to ensure we and our member organisations have a broad understanding of your needs, we also carry out regular research.

Our most recent research delved into the opinions and trends of senior leadership teams on funding and curriculum change. The ‘Strategic and Curriculum Change’ research provides analysis into the current affect that the curriculum is having on decision making and resourcing in UK state schools.

The survey of 581 UK schools (308 primary, 273 secondary) which was conducted in May 2014, found an increasingly positive view about the recent policy changes as it impacts on resources, with just 37 per cent showing a negative view compared with 68 per cent in 2013.

The findings also revealed that schools are currently giving greater attention to reporting and assessment due to the changes in Ofsted inspection arrangements. 76 per cent of primary schools (70 per cent authority, 92 per cent academy) and 75 per cent of secondary schools (66 per cent authority, 87 per cent academy) are increasing their focus on Pupil Premium reporting. In terms of assessment as a whole, the survey also highlighted that although summative assessment continues to be of importance (62 per cent) there is a shift towards formative assessment (79 per cent). End of lesson assessment also remains important (73 per cent). Another area of increasing focus due to Ofsted inspections across all schools is continuing professional development and training, with a significant 61 per cent increase in focus. When it comes to those who shape schools’ investment we also start to see another trend forming, with external advisors having less influence on procurement decisions and governors, bursars, senior leadership teams, and to a certain extent, classroom teachers having a greater level of responsibility.

Although the research comes at a time of significant change the results indicate a positive approach by educators. Over the majority of areas there is a less negative view of the changes and their impact on resourcing in schools. In terms of a long-term trend this is very typical of the education sector; after a few years of concern it has worked hard to establish an effective structure to support the recent curriculum and assessment changes.

uFor information from BESA contact: uCaroline Wright u020 7537 4997 7

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