Planning, coordinating, managing, sustaining, networking and facilitating; these are all key aspects of an extended school manager’s role. Fran Shelley discusses these different aspects of her role as extended schools manager at Downside Middle School in Newport
Role My role as extended schools manager involves planning and coordinating extended school provision, developing and sustaining links with a range of partners, attracting funding, ensuring the effective running of provision and making sure that strategically, extended school provision is embedded within school development plans with other initiatives such as Healthy Schools and with area-based regeneration schemes. I have been in post for just over three years, but before this I had over 15 years’ experience of community development work. This experience of networking with other agencies and supporting the start-up of new groups has been really beneficial to my current role. Not surprisingly, a great deal of my work involves developing extended provision for students that gives them opportunities to enjoy and achieve and to learn new skills. As an extended school manager, I essentially had access to several hundred students who were eager for new opportunities to try different sports and leisure pursuits, to engage in creative and expressive work, and develop practical, work-related skills. This provided me with a massive opportunity to make links within the local community and with business and leisure providers – so the opportunities and benefits of sound community development begin to be apparent. I have, since commencing my role, developed a wide range of partnerships with local providers who now contribute to our extended school’s Quest programme (see box opposite for details), which gives students the opportunities they were seeking. I also work closely with staff in school, such as the community link teacher and our design and technology teacher (for model making and other activities), and also with creative partnership tutors -– they all have a wealth of experience and expertise to contribute to the extended schools programme for students (and indeed for the community). My role also involves managing, coordinating and in some cases facilitating or delivering provision targeted at parents. For instance, I facilitate a back to work project for parents which takes place at a community centre, adjacent to the school. This project, which has been running for six years, is entitled ‘Suit Yourself’, and is supported by a number of different funding streams. The course adopts a group work process aimed at raising self-esteem, confidence and listening skills, and offers sessions on CV writing, dressing for interview, interview techniques and assertive behaviour. I get a great deal of satisfaction from this work as many students go on to gain good work-related qualifications, obtain jobs and benefit from improved self-esteem and confidence.
Parental engagement is an important strand of our extended school strategy and I constantly look for new and exciting ways to involve parents in supporting their child’s learning. Recently, students and staff at Downside have been preparing their entry into the national Global Rock event and involvement in this has enabled us to attract parents who are willing to help with theatre makeup, choreography, costume making etc. We have also been successful in targeting and attracting grandparents into school to support our efforts and this has worked really well. They often have plenty of time on their hands, masses of expertise and a willingness to spend time with their grandchildren and their peers.
|A typical day
As an extended schools coordinator my day can be vast and varied but most days I have a series of meetings and there are certainly lots of phone calls and emails with partners to help me coordinate and plan events.
The importance of partnerships
Partnerships with cluster schools cannot be overestimated and another aspect of my role is to ensure that opportunities for students to work collaboratively are embraced. When our geographic community benefited from lottery funding which resulted in the rejuvenation of the Isle of Wight as a ‘Carnival Island’ we jumped at the chance to work cooperatively with our nearest high school at Medina in Newport to plan the annual carnival. The work of constructing costumes and preparing dance opportunities together has strengthened our links as a cluster, and enabled us to use this project as a transition project between primary, middle and high schools. It is essential that as an extended schools manager, I identify ways to strategically embed extended schooling with area wide initiatives. Downside Middle is located right in the centre of the largest provision of social housing on the Isle of Wight, which has been subject to regeneration. We took the opportunity to work closely with the Pathfinder regeneration team of Pan Neighbourhood Partnership to benefit the local area and residents. By adopting the practice of working closely with this organisation we have been able to joint fund the two youth worker posts for a three-year contract. The impact for students and the community as a whole has been significant as we have very good one-to-one support for students to address behaviour issues and those around friendship and bereavement. The youth workers also support our Quest programme (see box for details) and additionally run a Youth Club in the community centre twice a week. Additionally, we offer work placements to social work students on a six-month basis and I was involved in getting the wheels in motion at this and other local schools.
Fostering effective links with partners, as noted in my introduction, is a key aspect of my role. In my view, the benefits of working with other agencies to maximise funding, expertise and input cannot be overstated. Experience has taught me that agencies often have shared target groups and agendas; have specific knowledge in their own field of expertise; and sometimes have additional funding streams. By working together we can pool resources and also help minimise duplication of projects and initiatives. Our Ofsted report in November 2006 rated us at 1 for our links with other agencies, and this is a position we will endeavour to maintain through continued working with our cluster of schools and our sustained partnership arrangements.
|The Quest programme Almost three years ago we began to offer a breakfast club and, after school, a selection of clubs. These were open to students from primary school and other middle schools in the area, but often it was the same pupils who were attending the clubs. The head and senior leadership team realised the need to ensure that all pupils had an opportunity to have a taster of the different and varied opportunities on offer. At the start of September 2007 we decided to slightly shorten the length of each lesson every Friday, slice some time from the lunch hour, and offer a menu of 18 different extended school activities every Friday afternoon – this culminated in what has been called our Quest programme. This arrangement enables our students to participate in the same activity for approximately six sessions on a weekly basis each half term. Almost all the opportunities are offered free of charge to all students and every half term they get the opportunity to make a new option choice. We aimed to offer as wide a range of activities as possible and our networks with local providers have been invaluable in guaranteeing this is the case. Our partnership with the Isle of Wight College has resulted in a series of workshops for students on carpentry and also on make-up and hair design. The community police service offer workshops in forensics, the local garage have delivered car mechanics courses (and even offered a job to a particularly enthusiastic participant), and the local veterinary surgery have brought different animals into school and trained children in pet care. Sports and fitness opportunities are vast and have included table tennis, rugby, football, horse riding, juggling and stilt walking. We have also offered a ‘learn to swim club’ as we believe every child should leave Downside with the ability to swim – after all we are a small island surrounded by sea! And we have benefited from great input from our Golf Club in Newport which offers weekly coaching and lessons with a national golf coach. Moreover, our links with the high school in Carisbrooke, which has gained Sports Mark status, have resulted in courses enabling students to use the fitness training machines at the high school.
Early evaluations have shown the favourable impact on behaviour, and attitude to learning generally, and we therefore divert some of our funding towards supporting these activities, where a charge is involved. So far we have not run out of activities for students to engage with, although we may soon get to the point where we need to repeat some, as we have so far offered a choice of 72 different activities! We could not deliver such a wide range of activities without the support of our local business, and educational community as the Quest programme relies heavily on networking and the involvement of other partners.