Wednesday, 9 December 2015

What makes a good school?

Trainees in Region 2 attend a Management Workshop with the Education Management Specialist

Anyone involved in education has pondered over this important question from time to time. Is it the children? Is it the teachers? Is it the Senior Staff? Is it the building? Maybe it’s the resources. We could all conclude that it will be a combination of all of these. Without cooperative children, well trained and motivated teachers, resources which meet the needs of the children and a pleasant learning environment, day to day life for our children in school could be quite banal.

For some years now, staff at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) in Kingston, Georgetown have been convinced that, amongst all of these features of a good school, the dominant factor is the quality of the leadership. For a number of years, NCERD has offered management training to, not only Headteachers, but also to those in senior positions in education who aspire to lead a school. The Education Management Programme is a distance learning course which seeks to provide teachers with the skills and experiences necessary to become a Headteacher, whilst still working in a school.

The 18 month programme was developed to enhance the management capacity of Guyanese schools through the essential training of senior staff. It is divided into nine modules which deal with such issues as the school curriculum, governance, personnel, financial management and other related topics. The progress of the trainees is measured through continuous assessment using regular assignments, management activities, a practicum and two formal examinations. The main emphasis of the course is on leadership – the ability of the trainees to formulate a vision for their school, identify its strengths and weaknesses and formulate plans for improvement. Key elements of a good leader are the ability to work in teams and develop others, drive and enthusiasm, confidence to do the job, vision for the school and the aptitude to influence others and also to consider “the big picture”.

The current cohort of trainees are from all over the country and every region is represented. Over 550 are presently involved and are well on the way to completing the programme. Both graduate and non graduate teachers are involved. A group of almost 50 Master Trainers are responsible for ensuring that the trainees are on the right track and providing advice and guidance where it is needed. They maintain contact with NCERD for regular training and a five day Leadership Conference in Georgetown in August.

Since March 2007, the Programme has been overseen by the new Management Specialist and VSO volunteer (Voluntary Service Overseas) at NCERD – Stephen Harding. Mr Harding has been a teacher in England for over 35 years and has worked in the field of Management for the last 20 years. He is no stranger to school leadership. Under his guidance, it is hoped the programme will go from strength to strength. He has spent almost a year immersing himself in all things educational in Guyana and is now ready to undertake a complete re-write of the programme, tailoring it much more to the needs of Guyanese schools in the 21st Century. At the last Master Trainers’ Conference, Mr Harding said “It is very important that the future of Guyanese education lies in the hands of people who know what they are doing and are visionaries and leaders in their own field.”

It is with this in mind that the Ministry of Education is allocating considerable resources to the training and development of Guyana’s future educational leaders. NCERD is currently developing a website which will contain full details about the programme, additional resources and links to other educational websites both at home and internationally. The programme also provides financial reward for those who complete it and extra consideration when applying for promotion. In region 2, where the programme was piloted, almost all Headteachers have completed the programme. Now they are finding that the new Headteachers in their schools are much more readily able to meet the challenge of Headship after a thorough programme of preparation. The course has developed considerably since its inception and many more teachers are feeling the need to be trained to take on the challenges of meeting the needs of a new generation of Guyanese children.

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