Negotiating and innovating

Year: 2012

Author: Howard, Nigel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Richard Teese has called for a change in the way that we view disadvantaged schools..." They should be funded as vehicles of system renovation, aimed at delivering benefits to the school system as a whole. The justification of their funding should lie in their role as innovators for the system, not as residual sites of under-achievement that we have created.  "As a teacher, educational bureaucrat and leader working in disadvantaged schools and with students on the margin I have in Richard Teese term's been "condemned to innovate".

The innovations have gained recognition within the State System, Nationally and at times politically but there has been no systematic way on building on these innovations in a way that has made a systemic difference - as an educator this has meant recognition but with no tangible support.

As Principal of a declining school on the edge of the City Fringe, I worked with teachers and the community to re define the school from declining to small and successful.  The Innovations at the school were built around partnerships with community service providers to keep engaged and reengage the most marginal of young people. Senior School curriculum was redrafted and formed around a team of teachers taking responsibility for a team of students. Targeted fully accredited learning programs were developed around specific cohorts of students including a community based young mothers program. Despite recognition at all levels of the system when the school closed to make way for a "Super School" the partnerships, the programs and the innovations were lost.  (The young mothers program continues under the leadership of my current school).

In 2011 I won a Principal Position at another declining school still disadvantaged but more socio-economically mixed school still on the City Fringe.  The dialogue we have started at the school is around redesigning the school and the curriculum to engage students in project based learning within a framework of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths.  Using the explicit idea of Innovation as a way of bringing back into play the lessons learnt from years of negotiating schooling in disadvantaged communities.