Friday, July 6, 2018

Resourcing in a small school

Many organisations have worthwhile programmes that are offered to the school.  They want to work hand in hand to deliver a project that they have developed. They have value and for larger schools are easy to roll out and have a target audience.  The temptation is to take them all on for the good of the kids.

In a smaller school like ours, that is offered many projects during the year, the need to manage them becomes a resourcing issue.  Excursions require a file of documentation, staff willing to participate, students willing to give it a go, a spot on the planner that won't cause disruption to learning and ensuring it's not the same six kids going on each excursion.  We need to liaise with partner organisations, work with them and ensure that there is a win-win situation available.

What I have found is that we have had more success with organisations that ask our needs and then seek to help us reduce the issues caused by them.  UWA Aspire and Rotary are two good examples of where this can work.

UWA Aspire had a clear goal to raise low socioeconomic student engagement with university and to raise their aspiration levels.  We needed support for our Math/Science students and assistance with career activities. They listened and assisted us establish our Mathematics Academy by providing university students that worked with our kids and supported us with resourcing and food to keep them coming.  They take our kids on a Leadership camp. They support our summer school with a venue and ambassadors at UWA. They come to the school for each year group and work with developing a career focus from year 7 onwards.  We assisted them with developing activities that would fit our students.  They assisted raising awareness of modern teaching pedagogy through their education faculty.

Rotary offered to help as a community minded group.  They had leadership programmes and science programmes but waited to establish a connection and asked what our requirements were.  We needed assistance in developing a strategic plan for the school.  They worked with our board and now help lead it through our chairman with our Principal.  Our kids wanted to be more involved in the community and formed a Rotary Interact Club.  Rotary programmes could be run independently of the school, reducing administrative overhead, increased student involvment - resulting in community events and even trips to Singapore and London for our students.

Both of these are relationships that I have had involvement with.  There are others, such as with the Smith Family, ABCN, with organisations within DOE such as SEND:BE and the engagement team which have similar impact.

I'm currently starting a music club after school (as we have no offering for music at the school), running some maths extension classes and building our Achievers club (students that have 4As and no Ds).  A good model for external agencies is to pilot a project, have it running for a year or so and then have a model for a partner agency to develop.  I hope these develop into something that the school can use for some time, like the Summer school, Interact club and Mathematics academy - each that involve 20-50 students (10-20% of the school).

A well meaning project can take up resources that may be better utilised elsewhere.  These usually involve 3-4 students (such as the solar car challenge or a number of local leadership programmes), over an extended period, are expensive, are during school time, require transport (a bus is $300 per day), want access to upper school students and require teacher involvement for duty of care (at $600 per day, a "free" project becomes expensive).  If a project can't be accessible to 20-30 students (which is a difficult brief), I think often kids are better off in school, somewhere geared to teaching large groups of students.

Where this is untrue is in the VET space, where small (1-4 students) projects have lasting impact on students but that is for another day.

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