Schools and community groups both have staff and volunteers with expertise and experience. We value the professionalism and hard work of teachers who are passionate about education in schools. We don’t think it detracts from that to value also the know-how and dedication of people who are involved in voluntary and community groups that help support children and play a part in their education – in a wider sense – outside school. One key way in which communities and schools could enable themselves to work together better as organisations, therefore, is through staff exchanges. Such exchanges could enable key people involved in educating children – particularly those vulnerable to exclusion – to: learn about each other’s practice; and build networks of support aroundso that they can stay in school and not be excluded.
What’s stopping us?
We understand that the teaching profession and trade unions representing its members are cautious about de-skilling or presenting teaching as something which ‘anyone can do’. We don’t believe it is; but we do believe there is a wider pool of people with serious expertise and experience who could contribute to school education; and that teachers would not be wasting their time by taking opportunities to extend their careers by working in community education and support beyond the school gate. There is a degree of perceived risk in enabling staff exchanges which we think is likely to discourage headteachers, their teams and governing bodies.
What might help us?
This is an approach, we think, that needs to be researched, piloted and evaluated professionally and in robust academic terms. A pilot programme in one area could look at the potential extent of exchanges as well as test the value added through a number of them. For this to happen, we think, needs funding from central government and research funders.