Dear colleagues

We tend not to do much Tug-of-War nowadays but there are valuable lessons to be learnt from it. Team members may all be on one side but they may not all be pulling together or pulling in the same direction (some pull backwards but some may be pulling to the side), while some may simply be holding on but not pulling. At our school are all pulling together, in the same direction, really pulling – staff, parents, pupils, Governors? Equally within ATS, are we all pulling together, in the same direction, really pulling? For us to move forward, we do all need to pull together. We are all only as strong as our weakest link. If we are not for, we are against.

I referred in the previous newsletter to the ATST and the ATSP and feedback received suggests that we do not all know much or enough about these parts of our association – and because we do not have a clear picture of them we may be suspicious and wary of them. Please allow me to try to clarify the roles of these groups so that we can use them positively for the benefit of the ATS as a whole. When we all pull together, we will be rewarded.

It will clearly come as a surprise to some of our members that the ATS TEACHERS has in fact been in existence since 2005 – this is not something new that has sneaked in recently! Reports from the ATST Chairperson have been presented at our Annual Conference for many years while Neil’s Newsletters have referred to them on several occasions. Our fear may be that it will become a “Teachers’ Union”, a venue where teachers will vent their anger, frustrations or complaints behind our backs. Let me assure you that that is far from the purpose of the group.

The Constitution of the ATST states that its purpose is:

  • “To foster the professional growth of teachers and advance the standard of the teaching profession;
  • To promote communication within the profession and to the public;
  • To promote the advancement of Independent education in Zimbabwe;
  • To cooperate actively with recognised individuals and organisations connected with education;
  • To promote better understanding of educational issues among teachers and lay citizens;
  • To provide advice on the handling of grievances.”

What is there to worry about there? These are hugely positive purposes that will help our schools greatly. It is an ideal venue for us to ascertain what training and professional development our teachers would like provided and to involve teachers in encouraging fellow teachers to raise the standards of education in our schools and in this country. Many of our teachers have not been educated in or previously taught in our Independent schools; many have limited understanding of professional standards; many are not aware they are part of the bigger picture. There is a hunger for more professional development from our teachers (which we in ATS need to provide) while worldwide there is an expectation that each teacher should be undergoing 50 hours of professional development a year. You may well have someone on your staff who is currently responsible for staff development and who would therefore, I suggest, be an ideal person for this position.

The ATST Committee will work closely with the ED and report to Stanco, while school representatives will liaise their own Heads. As a member of ATS, each school should have an ATST representative, so that teachers can support, encourage and inspire each other on educational matters – we cannot say that our school does not / will not have a representative. We have just held a very positive meeting of ATST representatives who are very keen to foster professional growth.

The Conference at La Rochelle, to which we were invited at late notice and at which representatives from six of our schools attended, served to reinforce the eagerness with which teachers wish professional development (a separate report of this Conference will be sent to you soon) while thismonth it was exciting to see so many folk at the REMTA meeting which was looking at Mathematics, not purely from a Remedial perspective. Professional development will be a major commitment of ours. I pay special mention to Paul Davis who took the initiative not only to invite a Head of a SAHISA school, Chris Storey from Somerset House, to speak to his staff about developments in SA, not least regarding BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), but he also invited Heads from a number of our schools to meet Chris and benefit from the visit – such sharing is warmly commended and encouraged.

It was also great to have time with most of our Secondary Heads at their Mid-Year Conference last week and special thanks go to Kevin Atkinson on organising it so well, giving a wide-range of speakers on different but related topics. The presentations will be distributed soon.

While the ATS PARENTS has been in existence for less time, it also can play a very positive role in our Association, if we allow it. We need to reach our parents; we need to educate our parents about what is expected of parents in our Association of Schools. We need to help them.

The Constitution of the ATSP indicates that its purpose is:

  • “To represent the interests of the Parent Liaison or Association Committees of Trust Schools in Zimbabwe.
  • To promote and encourage parents to participate in the activities of independent schools.
  • To promote communication, understanding and good relations between school governing bodies, management, the parents and the Ministry with a view to sharing
  • ideas on matters of common concern and to advancing the educational, physical, moral and spiritual interests of scholars;
  • To promote the welfare of independent schools financially and in general and where necessary to organize and conduct educational, social and spiritual programmes
  • for the benefit of its members, scholars and the schools.
  • To promote and protect the good name of Independent Schools by advocating for the promotion and maintenance of high academic, moral and spiritual standards.”

The ATSP Committee will work closely with the ED and will report to Exco. As a member of ATS, each school should have an ATSP representative, who may be the Chair of your Parents’ Committee. The ATSP Committee have been advised they can communicate with their school representatives but not without first communicating with the ATS office – we will also send to Heads anything that the ATSP wishes to reach their parent body through their own means (which will have been agreed by yourselves). We had a very positive and constructive meeting with members of the ATSP committee this month and they understand better their role now.

It is interesting that the predominant responsibility of both the ATST and the ATSP is to PROMOTE. That will help us as Heads and Governors. Through these respective Committees, ATS can reach out to our constituents and try to get them working fully in tandem with school Heads and Governors. Another major way in which we can promote ATS/CHISZ is through our website which we are currently working hard to develop and which we plan to launch at our Annual Conference when Heads and Governors will be together on 1 st October. There will be sections on the website for the ATST and the ATSP. What I have found interesting is that very few of our ATS schools make any mention on their own school website of their membership of ATS or CHISZ and do not include the logos – I hope this will change and that a link will be entered to the ATS website (once it is up and running) as the ATS website in turn will have a link to every member’s website. You can still send in photos for the ATS website if you wish! We need to know we are all part of ATS and we need all to play our part in it.

This coming week I am running a Governors’ workshop for the Victoria Falls Primary School Board of Governors so Cath and I will be visiting that school and plan to visit (and deliver CHISZ Assessment Papers to) as many of the Matabeleland schools as we can on our way back on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I have greatly valued and enjoyed visits for a whole variety of reasons over the last month to a number of you – Rydings, Lilfordia, Lendy Park, Hillcrest, Sharon as well as one of Arundel’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and commend everyone for all they are doing. I also greatly valued a Governors’ Workshop that we ran for Goldridge which showed all was good in that school with regards to the Heads and Governors.

Cath and I will be out of the office from 12 th July to 10 th August to attend my son’s wedding overseas; however the office will remain open with Peter in situ while Cath and I will both remain in touch through e-mails (and whatsapp, if so desired). I will then be in the office throughout the holiday. While overseas I have arranged a visit to HMC representatives, to develop relationships with them, and we will also be meeting up with the Bradshaws and Fullers during our stay.

On a sad note, ATS and CHISZ sent sincere condolences to Patrick Chingoka on the loss of his wife after a long battle with cancer. It has been hard for him to maintain his work commitments while caring for his wife but he has communicated his re-commitment to our cause.

Strength to you in all you are doing. Let’s keep pulling together.
As ever