Congratulations to Mrs Rebecca Clarke. The BBC today noted on their Education pages that Mrs Clarke has become the head teacher at Greenleas First School in Linslade, near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, after starting work at the school as a volunteer and working through a range of posts including lunch-time supervisor, teacher, deputy head and twice acting head teacher before becoming the substantive head teacher.
This is a good news story in several respects. Firstly, as it shows that those coming to teaching later in life, in this case seemingly after her children started school, can still become a head teacher and secondly because governing bodies need to remember that head teachers can achieve without always following the expected path to promotion. That doesn’t mean I advocate dropping in those with no experience of education into the head’s study, as I don’t. But you don’t always need twenty years in the classroom environment before you can become a head teacher. This is especially the case for those women that take a career break to raise a family or care for a relative. Although it may be appropriate to initially return to classroom teaching to regain core skills the profession does need to do far more to facilitate re-entry and accelerated promotion for such people than currently is the case.
Once back promotion should be relatively swift if those making the decisions can see beyond the bare facts on an application form. With the demise of local authorities it isn’t clear where ‘return to teaching’ courses and support for this type of career development now resides in local areas. At the very least, the NCTL should review the help for returners on offer across the country.
Another primary school in the news this week is Gascoigne Primary in East London: a school featured in its own TV series. Currently with more than 1,000 pupils on roll, it has been suggested that it be expanded to 1,500 across two sites. Now, I wonder whether the expansion has less to do with educational factors and more to do with the fact that if the school was split into two new schools these would both have to become academies, whereas the current school can grow to any size and remain a community school with a closer relationship to the local Council. I am sure that isn’t the thinking, but I am curious about any plan to create mega-schools. When Labour tried to create massive so-called Triton prisons some years ago there was a mighty row in the national press and among those concerned with prison reform. But, it seems as a community we are accepting of such large size primary schools. Personally, having been educated in a 16 form junior school with around 650 pupils, I am not a great fan of very large primary schools, especially when they include very young children on site, as I have said before on this blog. Still let’s celebrate Mrs Clarke’s achievement and worry about large schools on another day.