I’ve been asked by a number of people to explain what I meant by this and how it might work.
This option has a number of threads but the starting point is founded upon a perceived need to encourage students to actively create social enterprises which will benefit their communities, and in turn,themselves.
The idea is not new and is rooted in the Grameen Bank concept, although with more of a focus upon community benefit and personal/group development, rather than tackling poverty. The scheme should certainly tackle some of the symptoms of poverty within communities.
The concept is based upon the establishment of a microfinance fund using donations from local business people and other sources – councils included. This money would be placed in a trust to which students, or other members of a community, could submit an application for a micro loan which would allow them to establish and develop their social enterprise. The only stipulation – aside from the viability of the plan – would be that the proposal must have a direct benefit to their local community.
An example we have been developing relates to an Elders Buddy Scheme. Let’s say that a student (or students) at the school applies to the fund for an interest free loan to set up the buddy scheme, which will involve families or individuals paying a minimal fee for a young person to spend 5 hours week making an evening home visit to an elderly person. The social entrepreneur/s, would use the loan – to a maximum £1000 – to pay for advertising, information materials, recruitment, training, disclosure fees, and other costs.
The microfinance fund would seek to provide additional support through a business /community mentor and a further network of relevant contacts and fellow social entrepreneurs.
Areas of possible community benefit include; early years and child care; elderly care; youth programmes; disability support; and environment.
Obviously there are numerous working details missing from this description but in order to keep this post brief and to the point I’ll focus upon the benefits to the indviduals and the community they inhabit, and the possible problems.
Here’s a list of possible benefits:
Young people are introduced to the world of work and enterprise in a real and meaningful manner.
Communituties would benefit from the services provided.
Experience in developing and running a social enterprise would be highly regarded on applications for employment or further/higher education.
Young people develop real experience in financial management.
It gives meaning to other academic studies as they become contextualised in a world of work and social duty.
If recognised as part of a young person’s senior phase curriculum it would enhance and deepen that experience.
It would promote comunity engagement and awareness of young people with/about their community.
It woukd raise the positive profile of young people in their communities.
Encourages young people to take the next step into running businesses for themselves.
Promotes and entrepreneurial spirit in a community/school.
And possible problems:
Loans are not repaid
Enterprises collapse as young people leave their communities for further study or employment
Services to vulnerable groups are not sustained
Existing services with full time employees are placed at risk due to competition.
Schools do not recognise the value of the scheme and only allow high achieving students to particpate or do not facilitate time for involvement.
The scheme does not offer sufficient support in the initial stages
The bureaucracy of the application process is too off putting and complex.
Funding is too short term.
Insufficient number of financial backers.
Works only in areas of high net worth and not in communites which might really benefit.
I met a teacher today who has been applying for Principal teacher jobs without success.
One of the problems is that many jobs ask for leadership experience – but how do you get that experience if you’re not in a leadership position?
Many people manage to gain such experience by being in the right-place-at-the-right-time – i.e. they are lucky enough to get formal acting-up experience due to circumstances in their own school. We’ve tried to address this at senior management level by opening out all such opportunities to external candidates but we can’t take it below that level due to the impact it would have on class teaching.
However, we’ve had a number of conversations recently which have stressed that ‘leadership’ is not something that is the sole preserve of people in ‘leadership’ positions. The question is whether or not we could come up with some kind of scheme for people who aspire to leadership positions in schools by linking a school-wide responsibility, which they might have volunteered for, with a formal leadership network?
For example, I might be leading a group on formative assessment in my school. By joining the network of “Leaders of Learning”, who lead learning and teaching groups in their own school, cluster or even authority wide, I have a recognised leadership position within the authority. The network would meet regularly, have links to other groups and authority wide initiatives.
We could also provide specific training opportunities for the network which would link with the possibility of formal qualifications.
When applying for a promoted position in the authority I would have the formal recognition that I have held a leadership position – thereby addressing one of the dificulties so many people face by not being in the right-place-at-the-right-time.
I much prefer this kind of system to a fast tracking scheme – as the police use – as it’s inclusive and links nicely with our priority to share leadership and develop learning and teaching.
My only concern might be that some people might see this idea as getting people to take on leadership responsibilities on the cheap – is this exploitation?
In a meeting this week we were exploring some of the essential criteria we might use for promoted posts such as Principal Teacher, Depute Head Teacher and Head Teacher.
For example –
Should anyone who wishes to become a Depute Head Teacher have been a Principal Teacher in more than one school?
Should a prospective Head Teacher have held promoted positions in more than one school?
Does someone have to have held a Depute Head Teacher’s post for a certain period of time before they can be considered for promotion to HT – e.g. three years?
The underlying assumption behind all of these possible criteria is that you cannot be regarded as being ready for promotion until you have “served your time” and “have experience of more than one school”.
Does “serving time” in a promoted post really prepare people for the next step?
Does it mean that if I’ve done five years a Depute that I’m automatically ready for Headship?
What if the cut-off for consideration is three years and I’ve been in post 2 years and ten months – does two months make such a difference?
What if I’ve held a promoted post in a school where I’ve been given no autonomy by my Head Teacher – should that be the same as someone who has maybe taken on leadership responsibilities in another school but without being at the same promoted level?
All this takes me back to the title of this post Leadership – nature or nurture?
I do believe there are some innate traits which good leaders should have but that it’s not necessary to have the “full set”. – that’s where nurture comes in. Experience in a variety of posts does help – and can be considered essential in some cases – as long as the person is learning from these experiences.
We are relaunching our Exchange Programme next term where teachers/PTs/Deputes/ and HTs will be able to seek an exchange with a colleague in East Lothian in the coming session. Hopefully this will give some individuals who wish to broaden their experience the opportunity to do so within a nurturing environment.
(I’ll be exploring, in a separate post, what “experience” and why it might be a necessary criteria for job selection)