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Collegiality – how can we sort it?
September 4, 2011

Collegiality is the relationship between colleagues.  Colleagues are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose. A colleague is an associate in a profession or in a civil or ecclesiastical office. Thus, the word collegiality can connote respect for another’s commitment to the common purpose and ability to work toward it. In a narrower sense, members of the faculty of a university or college are each other’s colleagues; very often the word is taken to mean that. Sometimes colleague is taken to mean a fellow member of the same profession. “ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collegiality]

The problem with collegiality in education is that sometimes the definition becomes blurred.  Within many schools today this latest educational buzzword is flung around INSETs and staffrooms with gay abandon and little thought given to what it really means.  Perhaps we should look at it as being the unity of purpose of all those involved in all levels of education and society but interacting and effecting students in different ways. But how closely bound together is this collegiate dream?

In schools at its most basic level collegiality is the staff working together to get their students through their curriculum and achieving the results the students need to go further on in life.

For the QIO and Education Department staff it is the STACS above all rather than the individual needs of the schools and students that are important so they can justify the budget increases which, sadly often do not filter down to the schools themselves.

Then we have another level above the local authority that is responsible for achievement, attainment and assessment in the form of Education Scotland. So why then do we need an expensive and often primary school focused group between the school and the government?

Above the school level collegiality to me also means the colleagues that I encounter and interact with online via twitter or those from other schools nationwide or overseas who send me links, share resources and good practice, give me great ideas for lessons, starters and one off learning incidents. I may never meet them in the flesh so to speak but I WILL be thankful for their support and help in making me a better teacher and supporting my students. One or two may not even be teachers but they do have resources, facilities and ideas that I can use. I also enjoy visiting the associated primaries and working with the staff there. They come to our school to see how their former P7s are getting on and help us ensure we support their new P7s prior to transition.

Collegiality should extend from the nursery teacher to the primary schools thence to the associated secondary’s and ideally direct to the universities and local colleges.

It does not, thanks to wildly differing approaches by local authorities and national governments, Some LAs are modern, forward thinking and allow schools to set the pace helped by QIOS and others; others deliberately constrain schools fearful of the loss of their ‘power’ or perceived places in mini Empires that cost lots and achieve little.

Hence I firmly believe it is time to remove the council/local authority level and give schools their own budgetary control and management of staff, recruiting etc. This can only enhance collegiality as staff and parents, SLT, students and the LOCAL community not faceless officials miles away can work together to enable their schools to support their students given their local needs.  LAs often fail to be part of a collegiate community because they do not have an emotional investment in the members of that community as they often have thousands to supervise and their aim is to justify their existence in many other ways. Could we not have QIOs or similar but place them physically IN the schools? Literally with an office in the secondary school and they can concentrate on that school and its associated primaries. The ‘literacy’ and ‘numeracy’ support  is often piecemeal and focused on primaries in many LAs. Perhaps a PT Literacy and one for Numeracy as there are appearing in some primary/secondary schools is the way forward? We need collegiality to be aided by those at the top but all to often this does not happen. To achieve a true collegiate chain as it were from nursery to university the key link must be at local level and if it doesn’t happen then it needs to be between schools and colleges/universities up the way and primaries down the way.

Let’s get the discussion going; how can we improve collegiality to an extent that it is something that runs whoever supports our students whether they are aged 3 or 25. Is there a place for a learning campus in every town where the little ones go into the nursery and stay there until leaving at 18 or would this be even more formalisation of the factory schools so hated by Ilyich et al?

Should colleagues interact with each other at the different levels ie should secondary teachers spend time teaching in primaries and vice versa? What can we do to resolve the problems within schools such as the departments that huddle in their bases rather than attend the staffroom? Or the cliques that appear in too many schools. Or the lack of sharing good practice with other departments or even people in your own subject? This lack of collegiality affects even the best performing schools.

We MUST get a grip of collegiality; it is important and the end result is the improvement of learning and teaching and thus the lives, achievements and success of our students. It is time some realised that is the most important thing, not what STACs tells us….

*Excellence not Guaranteed!
April 19, 2011

Excellence; the fact or state of excelling; superiority; being exceptionally good. So does Curriculum for Excellence mean we have to build an excellent curriculum, then deliver an excellent curriculum and create excellence? This is what I find most daunting about CfE. Just by its title it doesn’t feel achievable and I don’t feel worthy enough to build, deliver or create it, and I know lot’s of others who feel the same. Last term, when discussing CfE in the staffroom, it was jokingly suggested that our school motto should be *Excellence not Guaranteed. I find it sad that one word can make good teachers feel they have to put a disclaimer under their teaching. So I say ignore the title and ignore the phrases; excellence groups, sharing best practice and building your curriculum that make us feel inadequate and focus on the fantastic learning and teaching that we are all capable of.

The ten point implementation plan was supposed to enhance teachers’ confidence in CfE, but I’m not sure these statements would make me feel better; “drawing on experience of teachers from neighbouring schools who have already fully prepared for the new curriculum” translates to ‘this is how you should have prepared’ and “excellence groups” translates to ‘if you are deemed good enough we would like your input’. I agree that the best way to move forward is to get out and about and see how other’s put things into practice but the focus put on this has maybe been more of leading by example rather than networking and building together.

The focus needs to be on sharing and realising that we are in charge of our own classrooms and if our children are happy, engaged and learning, and we are experimenting with different techniques and trying to make learning relevant, deep and enjoyable then we have our own perfect mix of non guaranteed excellence!

Collegiality is going to be one of the most important ways of building each others confidence and moving CfE forward. We need to talk, share, moan and develop together in safe and nurturing places, whether physical places or virtual places, such as here or twitter. The best thing we did at school recently was go out for coffee. At 3.15 on the last Tuesday of the month we ditch the folders, schoolbags and USB drives with our lives on them and just go drink coffee, eat cake and chat. It was great to do and reminded you that the best discussions, developments and ideas come in the least stressful environments! We need to work together in the way we ask the children to, we need to put our hands up if we are stuck and praise ourselves and others for the fantastic work we do! So leave a positive comment, go out for a coffee, introduce someone to twitter, compliment someone and feel good about yourself!

*Apologies for the very happy shiny circle time feel to this post but we need some positivity sometimes!

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