Education: Demanding Period of Change; Brian Rowlands Is General Secretary, SHA (Secondary Heads Association) Cymru

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 6, 2002 | Go to article overview

Education: Demanding Period of Change; Brian Rowlands Is General Secretary, SHA (Secondary Heads Association) Cymru


Byline: BRIAN ROWLANDS

THE annual conference of the Secondary Heads Association Cymru is taking place in Llandrindod Wells over two days at a highly significant time in the history of education in Wales.

More than 100 secondary school leaders from all parts of Wales will be debating many major issues due to be implemented in the near future.

The full programme includes discussion of the new arrangements for the inspection of schools which will be outlined by the Chief Inspector, Susan Lewis; the new proposals for a radical reform of the curriculum 14-19 from the Welsh Assembly Government; the transformation of post-16 funding arrangements by Elwa, the current concerns with teacher workload, legal issues and the perennial funding problems in our schools.

The impact of all these issues on the management of schools will be immense.

SHA Cymru has applauded the many positive aspects of the distinctive education system which is emerging in Wales.

We particularly value the commitment to a fully comprehensive school system which promotes diversity within schools by leaving them the freedom to shape their own individual ethos and values.

This contrasts sharply with the increasingly diverse and divisive system emerging in England which we believe will undermine the strengths of the comprehensive system and set schools in competition with each other. The emphasis in Wales is rightly on partnership.

Nevertheless, the price we are paying is that the next year promises to be an enormously demand-ing period of change for schools in Wales with the vast number of important and far reaching initiatives referred to above being put in place.

Some of these SHA Cymru feels are being too hastily implemented without adequate planning and with little or no additional resources.

On the positive side SHA Cymru welcomes the new inspection framework produced by Estyn in close consultation with school leaders. This positive and constructive working dialogue has produced a framework which will place greater emphasis on the school's own self-evaluation processes whilst maintaining the necessary level of rigour and ob j ec t i v i t y.

Brian Lightman, head of St Cyres School, Penarth, and vice president of SHA Cymru says, ``These changes will provide more opportunities for school leaders to work in partnership with external inspectors to focus on the most important development priorities for their schools.

``SHA Cymru welcomes the increased degree of ownership of the inspection findings this will give schools.''

On the other hand Elwa's proposals for changes to the system of funding post-16 education are the cause of grave concern.

The proposals at present in consultation seem to indicate the creation of a bureaucratic, cumbersome formula which will require vast amounts of data collection.

Many members fear the loss of sixth form provision as a result of this new regime and remain unconvinced that the changes proposed will do anything to improve the already high quality of provision in school sixth forms across Wales.

At the same time a radical review of the 14-19 curriculum is proposed. SHA Cymru president, Stephen Marshall, head of St Julian's, Newport, welcomes the publication of Learning Path-ways 14-19. He says it will give schools and other providers an opportunity to discuss alternative curriculum models. He adds, ``SHA Cymru looks forward to playing a full part in helping to move the proposals forward to a workable solution''.

Nobody doubts that a review is necessary and SHA nationally has for some time campaigned for this to take place. …

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