Diary of a Children’s Fund manager

I met a group of head teachers last week to review a new service
that they work together on. I’m not sure what the collective
noun is for a group of head teachers, but a “frown of heads” feels
about right.

I still feel uncertain at the prospect of spending time with one
head, never mind three. My heart was beating a little faster than
usual and I clutched my copy of Every Child Matters – the Next
, like a shield. The passages about schools at the heart
of the community and as key partners were carefully underlined.

Next Steps is in part a manifesto for the expansion of
the role and function of schools. In another way it is an
invitation to a compulsory tea party that just about everyone is
expected to attend. The only problem is that nobody seems to have
really checked out with one of the main hosts if jelly and ice
cream at their place is OK.

The heads I meet are mostly running schools in the most
disadvantaged areas, often with falling rolls and veritable
roundabouts of funny money, targets, standards, children and staff
all vying for ascendancy. They are an amazing lot. I get e-mails
from them on Sundays and they leave messages on the office
answerphone at 7.20am on Wednesday mornings. You can, however,
rarely get to speak to them during school hours.

My irregular heartbeat approaching the meeting is I suppose
because we have a bit of history, “me and the heads”. My
partnership stood firm over how money could be used in and around
schools and after a stand-off the heads agreed to budge on some
elements and an uneasy deal was done.

Within seconds of the meeting starting it was clear that they
were 100 per cent behind the programme. The heads took turns in
telling stories about how the essentially simple but well tested
interventions are making a big difference – not only to the
targeted children but, as one said, to the morale of the whole
school. Testimonies from parents were presented about the impact
and to cap it all they were saying the external links being
fostered were proving valuable and leading to even more

Dizzy with relief it took a great deal of restraint not to stick
my thumbs up and mouth the words “I knew it would work”, to the
children noisily and nosily making their way home peering in
through the window.

Emboldened by the excellent progress report I asked if they had
considered using some of the extra money announced by the
chancellor at the Budget to do more of the good work or even secure
its future in the longer term? The “frown” quickly regrouped and
all said they were harder up than ever but would think about it. I
decided to settle for a “think about it” on what was now starting
to feel like a Spring afternoon. I’m learning to love head

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