Collaboration and communication the key for headteachers facing the new school year

Glyn Hambling, chairman of the Norfolk Secondary Education Leaders group. Picture: Ian Burt

Glyn Hambling, chairman of the Norfolk Secondary Education Leaders group. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Headteacher associations plan to increase cooperation between schools to ensure the collaboration many credit with helping to improve standards is not lost as more schools become academies.

On Tuesday, Norfolk County Council warned that the county's school system could 'fracture' as academies break away into a multitude of separate organisations.

Now, Norfolk Secondary Education Leaders (NSEL) and the Norfolk Primary Headteachers' Association (NPHA) have created a new umbrella organisation, Norfolk Education Leaders, to bring them closer together.

Glyn Hambling, chairman of NSEL, said: 'We are sharing more information about children's progress through their life. The key points of transition are really important to us.'

The group is hoping to give Norfolk heads a stronger voice, through termly meetings with MPs in Westminster, to share information and 'to get the best deal for young people in Norfolk'.

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Money troubles

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In a series of articles this week, Ofsted, the regional schools commissioner, Norfolk County Council and teaching union leaders all acknowledged the increasing pressures on school budgets as cash funding from the government stays flat, but their costs increase.

But it is headteachers who have to deal with this at the sharp end, and Mr Hambling, and Binks Neate-Evans, chairman of NPHA, immediately agreed how tough the challenge will be this year.

Mr Hambling said: 'These shortfalls have to be absorbed by the school themselves. There is no-one out there who is going to say 'I know you are a bit short, here's some money'.'

He said options for schools included sharing more members of staff, looking at ways of buying resources together, and join use of facilities.

Mrs Neate-Evans said: 'I think leaders are very, very good at making absolutely sure the last place it will impact is on the children. We think very smartly about how we can cushion that deficit so that children do not lose from it. It means you have to think differently.'

Teacher recruitment and retention

Another key issue is the recruitment and retention of teachers, something Mrs Neate-Evans said was 'critical'.

She said: 'I think the critical bit we as associations have been talking about is retention. We have some really good leaders and teachers, and we will be working on how we keep them, and how we make the posts as attractive as possible, because we don't want to lose them.'

Mr Hambling also emphasised the importance of Norfolk 'growing our own' teachers - such as encouraging current teaching assistants to train to become fully qualified teachers.

Communication with parents

Increased communication with families is another key theme for both associations, as changes to the way pupils are assessed continue to work their way through the system.

One of the most obvious will be GCSE grades switching from letters, A* to G, to numbers, one to nine. Next summer's GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths will go first, with other subjects following suit in 2018 and 2019.

Mr Hambling said schools had held open evenings to explain the variety of changes to parents, and added: 'What is noticeable with high schools is that they are producing information booklets about how a course will be organised, and how it will be assessed in the future.'

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