Oranje-Diamant Primary – welcome to edubuzz

Oranje-Diamant Primary in Hopetown, South Africa which has a wonderful link with Longniddry Primary School, has recently set up it’s own website using our edubuzz platforom.

The Link began in 2005 when Mrs Forgie spent her summer holidays as a ‘Global Teacher’ (through Link Community Development) in Oranje-Diamant Primary. During these 5 weeks she worked with the school on Behaviour Management – sharing with them about Golden Time, the Golden Rules (which Oranje-Diamant Primary adapted to ‘The Diamond Rules’) and Rewards and Sanctions.  She also worked in the Computer Suite with whole classes, did some demonstration lessons in Basic Moves and worked with some teachers on differentiation in classes.  Following her return, both Longniddry Primary and Oranje-Diamant schools were very keen to set up a Partnership or ‘Link’.  Since then the schools have regularly exchanged pupil’s work, Christmas cards and questionnaires.  The teachers have shared information about the teaching of science and formative assessment.

In 2006/07 the schools successfully applied for a Reciprocal Visit Grant from the British Council and DFiD.  In May 2007, Averil Gorrah (Depute Head of Oranje-Diamant) and Audrey Finck (teacher) visited Longniddry from SA.  They spent a full 5 days in school, closely observing areas of interest to them, and answering many questions about South Africa

In January 2008, Longniddry’s Hilary Bell (Art Specialist and class teacher) and Jennifer Cummings (Special Needs Auxilliary) went out to visit Oranje Diamant Primary.  They had a warm welcome in Cape Town, where Averil Gorrah and his brother were able to show them around.  They then spent a full 5 days in ODPS where they observed lessons and took part in staff meetings and inservice sessions.  

 

Learning from the Past: Taking a line of sight from Scottish parish schools

 

 

Perhaps the time is right to explore alternative delivery models for education where we shift our thinking from people being users or consumers, to being participants? Ironically there is much to learn from our Scottish educational heritage as we consider our future.

The shift from School Boards to Parent Councils – which surely must be one of the best things to happen in Scottish education in the last twenty years – begins to provide an insight into the potential of true community involvement in the delivery of education at a local level.

Our current system – as it has evolved – has been dominated by the tenets of centralised control – both from the government and, in their turn, local authorities. The dependency culture, which this has created, is not the fault of those who work in schools, yet – in an ironic twist – it has become one of the key barriers to enabling teachers and school leaders to grasp the opportunity provided by a Curriculum for Excellence.

So how might we release the potential that so clearly exists in our schools and our communities?

Maybe the answer lies in our past? For when Scotland led the world in education it was through schools that were “owned” by their communities. The Scottish parish schools, which originally were purely elementary, were encouraged to provide at least the elements of secondary education. These schools played this role so well, that the Argyle Commission in its report of 1868 reported that over fifty per cent of the students attending the four Scottish universities came direct from parish schools. Parish schools were later joined by the establishment of burgh schools, essentially secondary schools, and in this way both types of schools became universal education providers, and gave to Scotland an education system that was the envy of Europe.

I want to make it clear here that I am not relating the traditional parish school with any religious affiliation – but instead see the concept as a powerful one where a community’s emotional bond to their schools is matched by an opportunity to translate that affinity into an active and substantive role in shaping and improving the quality of education delivered in their name.

What I have in mind is community-based management of schools. To a certain extent this concept has been trialled in certain areas of Scotland. This is where the local primary schools and secondary school work to promote links to smooth the journey for children and to benefit from sharing good practice. In some areas these developments have had dedicated management time allocated in the form of Learning Community manager or leader. However, the governance of these schools still lies with each of the respective head teachers. But what if we could establish a Community Educational Trust to which was devolved the entire budget for running education within that community? The main change that such a system could introduce is the notion of the schools being “owned” by their community. The shift in the perceived ownership of the school would actually match what people feel about their local school but where the perception of a centralised power base still keeps them removed from the real running of the school.

The reason I opt for community- based, as opposed to school-based management, is drawn from the lessons from South of the Border where schools have actually sought to limit their intake to particular types of student. This has resulted in huge variations in terms of the quality of education provision, with “magnet” schools and “sink” schools existing in close proximity to one another. The community-based model perceives the provision of education to be a much more inclusive and universal process. This is where the concept of “these are our bairns” underpins and permeates policy and practice.

Of course, the practicality of community-based management of schools throws up as many questions as it does answers. Not least of which would include how such schools would relate to their local authority? How would they manage budgets and systems that currently benefit from large-scale procurement? How would such communities relate to other Council delivered services and other agencies: and; How would the authority ensure that the needs of ALL children were being met?

Despite these, and many other such questions, I’d like to think that the potential of such a scheme is worthy of serious consideration and exploration. Even if such an idea comes to nought, it may indeed allow us to create different forms of educational delivery that might emulate the genetic traits that so characterised the success of the Scottish parish school system.

Mechai Viraidya

I had the privilege of meeting an exceptional person last week in the form of Mechai Viraidya.  We use the word “exceptional” very loosely these days but I can say with confidence that I’ve rarely met anyone like Mechai.

Mechai is a social entrepreneur of a different order. As a young economist working for the government in Thailand, Mechai saw a link between rapid population growth and poverty. He launched the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) in 1974 to distribute contraceptives and introduce sex education in rural communities and schools. The population growth rate dropped from 3.2 percent in 1974 to 0.5 percent in 2005. In the early 1990s, when HIV/AIDS hit Thailand, Mechai harnessed the PDA network and media and launched an aggressive public education campaign. Within 10 years Thailand was able to reduce HIV infections by 90 percent – equivalent to 7.7 million lives saved. The organization has enlisted private partners in over 450 Village Development Partnership programs that enable the poor to generate income without having to migrate to cities. By 2011, PDA plans to expand the Partnership program to at least 100 more villages.

PDA’s mission statement is: “Empowering Thailand’s Rural Communities to Eradicate Poverty”.

Mechai accepted the $1 million Gates Award for Global Health in 2007 and has also been recognised by Time Magazine as one of sixty Asian heroes. In 1997 he won United Nations Population Award (UNPA) in recognition of his most outstanding contribution to the awareness of population questions and to their solutions. Here’s Mechai being interviewed in connection with this award

Most recently PDA won the Skoll Foundation Award 2008 in recognition of their creative, innovative models of sustainable change.

If that wasn’t enough Mechai is now engaged in creating an empowering model of education in Thailand.  Lamplaimat Pattana School (LPMP)

In my next post I’ll reflect on how we have so much to learn from Lamplaimat but in the meantime I have to admit to being jolted out of my own comfort zone by meeting Mechai.  Here was a person who saw a problem and did something about it.  He didn’t make excuses that he couldn’t influence or change a system.  His commitment to action and lack of any fear of failure was inspirational.  I think I too often sit on the fence when I see something that’s fundamentally wrong believing that it can’t be changed.  If Mechai Viraidya had been incapacitated by such a fear then millions of his country’s population would no longer be alive.  Now that is truly an example to others!

Back in the land of …………….

We finished our self evaluation report on education in East Lothian yesterday.  It’s been a big job but one of the most worthwhile tasks I’ve ever engaged in.  We had to pull together the separate evaluations of seven thematic groups which covered:

  1. Early Year and Childcare;
  2. Learning and Teaching;
  3. Stakeholder Involvement;
  4. Resources Management
  5. Additional Support for children, young people and Families
  6. The Cluster Approach; and
  7. Wider Achievement.

We involved over 150 people as members of the self evaluation teams, which included all of our headteachers, many parents, young people, elected members, senior officers from other council services, community representatives and members of staff from education and community services.

Without any doubt it has been one of the most rigorous evaluations I’ve seen and has identified a range of things we can do to improve the quality of our service to people in East Lothian. 

I’d love to see something similar being undertaken in a school, where all stakeholders are part of the evaluation process.  This is very different from consulting or gathering opinion from these stakeholders, which is common practice in many schools and countries.  What I’m talking about here is that these stakeholders help to make the final judgement on the effectiveness of our collective practice.

I hope to publish a link the report here in the next few days which was written using Google Docs. In the meantime thanks to all those who helped to make the process such a success.