Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Alberta's Education System

I hope you managed to read the article in the Education Guardian today by Rhonda Evans about the education system in Alberta in Canada...
Rhonda had spent two weeks in Alberta talking to school leaders and discovered that Albertan school leaders are proud of their state education system. "Instead of seeking to further weaken and dismantle local authorities, Alberta's education system is based on the belief that local school boards – the equivalent of LEAs – rather than private enterprise are best placed to respond to local needs. Though the curriculum and exam system are the same throughout the province, enabling province-wide comparisons of student and teacher achievement, Albertans believe that the needs of each school are best addressed within each district." She goes on to say that "Alberta's success story began about 30 years ago, when then-fashionable free market advocates within the provincial government encouraged private and charter schools to set up. As in the US, there is no federal control of education in Canada; each province is responsible for its own education system. For the one third of children who live in rural areas, there is only their local school, much like in the UK. But within the urban areas of Edmonton and Calgary, there was pressure from the private sector, and politicians were offering to fund both private and state schools out of the public pot. Edmonton Public School Board introduced specialist programmes or options catering for every conceivable interest: sports, faith, language, certain trades, the international baccalaureate, you name it, they offered it. Alberta doesn't stream or set children until they reach 16; Edmonton principals get together once a month to share ideas and plan strategy. They form links with other school leaders in their own part of the city, and principals from what they term "have" schools support principals from "have not" schools. At local level, the superintendent influences the culture and priorities of the district, and this crucial role is filled by only the best and brightest of former principals. Aspiring deputy and assistant heads are brought into the district office to work as assistant superintendents, so they can gain a district-wide perspective. Superintendents attend their own training college."
This model sounds a lot like what we had established in Leeds over the last ten years; a collaborative, co-operative approach driven by passion and compassion. You should read Rhonda's article and you can also watch her film about her experiences in Canada at www.teachers.tv.

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