April 2017

The know zone

  • On your marks...
    A race around the park provides Dennis Richards with some gentle exercise and a golden opportunity to catch up on the latest thinking on pupil attainment… More
  • Halfway there
    Last December, the government finally released the second stage of the consultation on the national funding formula (NFF). So was it worth the wait? Julia Harnden says more funding must be invested in education for the formula to be a success. More
  • Minds matter
    Every week there is a new report or story in the media about the worsening mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. Here, Anna Cole highlights how leaders can develop a whole-school approach to deal with mental health and wellbeing. More
  • Mental health and wellbeing
    The government wants to offer schools in England mental health first-aid training and is looking at how to strengthen links between schools and the NHS. Have you seen a rise in mental health issues in young people in your school or college? Have you had any experience of accessing local specialist NHS services to help pupils? Here ASCL members share their views. More
  • Real-world opportunities to inspire students
    Focus on… Youth Grand Challenges More
  • Adding value
    Embracing new ways to communicate More
  • Stay in control
    Julie McCulloch highlights new guidance for schools considering joining or forming a multi-academy trust (MAT) and explains how you can stay in control of your school’s destiny. More
  • Leaders’ surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
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A race around the park provides Dennis Richards with some gentle exercise and a golden opportunity to catch up on the latest thinking on pupil attainment…

On your marks...

As winter finally gives way to spring, it’s time to dust down the trainers, dust off the leggings and start the Parkrun again. An international phenomenon, people of all ages, sizes and wildly different abilities complete a 5km run, trot, walk or whatever motion gets you from A to B every Saturday morning at 9am.

Founded in 2004 by a small group of runners in Hertfordshire, there are now up to 1,000 weekly Parkruns in well over a dozen countries. I run with Dave. Or, rather, I prefer to run behind Dave. If Dave were a car, you would say that he has a capacious boot. I use the Tour de France tactic and move smoothly into his slipstream. There’s a lot of Dave moving around and not all of it in a forward direction.

Dave is a headteacher who credits the Every Child Matters initiative of 2003 for the creation of Parkrun. It was a strategy which could and should have changed our education system for ever. For the first time, heads were told their first priority was to keep students safe and, next in line, encourage a healthy lifestyle. Only then should there be talk about achievement.

Dave claims that ageing teachers, and especially headteachers, lack all credibility when advancing the benefits of a healthy diet and lots of exercise. Hence Parkrun. It’s an interesting theory.

I haven’t the heart to tell him that we haven’t used the term ‘Every Child Matters’ for a number of years. It was changed to ‘Help Children to Achieve More’. In other words, you can jack the Parkrun in, Dave, and get back to results, results, results.

But it serves another useful purpose for Dave. He gets the opportunity to have a rant at me. He seems to blame me for escaping. His latest gripe is Progress 8. How can he possibly explain it to parents and governors when half the staff don’t understand it?

Subjects grouped in ‘baskets’ (or is it ‘buckets’?) and, so the Department for Education guidance says, “For all pupils nationally, the average progress 8 score will be zero”. Brilliant. You couldn’t make it up.

So, score nought, zilch or a duck and parents will understand that their offspring are doing fine. They could have done better but, as a school, we unfortunately kicked the bucket in basket 3.

Contemptuous look

Back at Parkrun, things are going badly as usual. Our nightmare is Jack. There must be at least 300 runners but he seems to seek us out. It happens every week. He speeds past us at the start with a contemptuous look and leaves us for dead. He then stops for a lengthy rest. We stagger triumphantly past him.

Within minutes, he speeds past us again. This happens several times. He humiliates us every week. Jack is 80.

Meanwhile, the elite at the front have lapped us – not once, but twice – have showered, had breakfast, and are in town shopping by the time we cross the line.

In the pub, Dave bangs on again about Progress 8. “Progress 8 is a pupil’s attainment score, minus their estimated attainment score.” Sounds gibberish. But I have an idea. Let’s apply it to Parkrun.

Take into account our age, cholesterol and general decrepitude and we can calculate our estimated attainment in Parkrun and measure it against our actual attainment. As caring professionals, you would expect us to be generous in our assessment. We reach a score of nought and conclude that we beat Jack every week. Roll on next Saturday.

Dennis Richards is a retired headteacher.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.