Last weekend's National Association of Head Teachers' conference began on Saturday after a hard day's night for many of the head teachers gathered in Liverpool for the event. They spent the previous night at the city's Cavern Club – the venue that launched The Beatles on to an unsuspecting world. By all accounts, a good time was had by all, with much singing and dancing with the locals.
The Beatles flavour carried on the following day when pupils from Banks Road Primary School in Liverpool sported Beatle wigs while giving a moving rendition of "Please Please Me" and "Hello Goodbye", thus earning the NAHT the reputation of being the most swinging conference on the education circuit – and the youngsters rapturous applause.
It was all a bit unfortunate for Schools Secretary Ed Balls, who was dubbed the "Nowhere Man" of the conference as he delivered his speech via a video recording from London. Applause was muted for him, with Mick Brookes, general secretary of the NAHT, suggesting that it would have benefited Mr Balls – who was later described by a head teacher as a "virtual Secretary of State", a phrase that appeared to stick as the conference went on – if he had turned up and heard what great music was being produced in our schools. In fact, Mr Balls' biggest reaction came when he admitted that he and Mr Brookes did not always see eye to eye with each other. Mr Brookes, on the platform, was seen nodding furiously.
The NAHT general secretary continued with The Beatles theme by starting a rejoinder to Mr Balls' number two, Jim Knight, with the words, "For the benefit of Mr Knight...". For Beatles fans, no, they were not discussing the benefits of trampolining on the national curriculum.
Meanwhile, one head teacher at the conference has dreamed up an ingenious way of getting his school budget out of the red. Faced with a sudden £16,000 bill for a staff regrading exercise, and no money to pay for it because the school was already £5,000 in the red, David Fann, head of Sherwood Primary School in Preston, Lancashire, applied for the vacant headship of neighbouring Broughton C of E Primary School, and has been running both schools since January – getting each school to pay half his salary. As a result, he is saving Sherwood £3,000 a month and will have wiped off the deficit by the end of the summer – when a permanent new head arrives at Broughton.
Mr Fann, who admits to being tired and having lost weight since taking on the dual responsibility, spends one full day a week and three half days in each school. Luckily, they are just a 10-minute drive from each other.
Meanwhile, back in London, the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations was handing out awards for the most innovative scheme introduced by a PTA during the past year. One that caught the eye was at Mordiford C of E Primary in Hereford. Here, the PTA has decided to harness the wide and diverse range of parent occupations to give the pupils an insight into working life, and demonstrate at a very early stage of their learning the wealth of opportunities available to them. A spin-off, of course, would be the school having a very handy list of people to whom it might be able to turn in the event of a whole host of emergencies.