Read an interesting article in the TES by Helen Ward this week: We’ll need non-teachers to cope with the leadership crisis
I just kept thinking are non-teacher school leaders a good idea? I may have a slightly biased view.
There is a looming leadership crisis in schools and a projected shortage of 19,000 school leaders by 2022. That’s roughly 5 years away. That’s a BIG number.
I am open minded about how leadership skills are universal and can be applied in many contexts. I believe that the core leadership skills needed to run Rolls Royce or to be a prison governor could be as relevant in a school community as much as the motor business or the ‘locking people away’ business. But, I really worry about how detached leaders have already become from the ‘craft’ of teaching because knowing the subtle arts of learning and teaching are key to leading schools well. This would be the same as your knowledge and skills about the brain if you were a neurologist. It is relevant – it’s like putting a Taxi driver in charge of the England team – they may talk the talk? (OK, not my best comparison). My point is leadership is about understanding the role we lead from (from the perspective of those that have to DO IT); leading without understanding the context can quickly become something that only resembles leadership in the blood stained mirror. I am not saying this does not get results; but results at what cost? Leadership is often about making crucial decisions at crucial points which form the direction of the organisation. Making those decisions without really knowing what you are doing is just playing a game of chance where your leadership experience may narrow the odds but in truth you are riding your luck. I feel that if I was a teacher right now, then the idea that my school could be run by someone who has no experience as a teacher, senior leader (or more and more as a headteacher) is one that would worry me. In the same way Prison Officers may look over their shoulders with a crafty wink during the morning briefing that introduces me as the NEW Governor. Credibility as a leader in education is not based on your Footsie 100 portfolio. Teaching does not lend itself to competitive or corporate business – as much as some are trying to tell us that it does.
So, will developing a new generation of school leaders – through building the Brand of School Leadership mean a better deal for children and teachers?
I think the current talk is very thin on fact.
What would attract business people to running schools? The moral high ground? The buzz of watching children skip out of the gates full to the brim and longing for the promise of tomorrow? Or rewards in line with the business world they are in? Imagine that? Headteachers acting like they were in the corporate world, before you know it you’ll have headteachers hiring Jags for their wives and paying themselves six figure sums. Results in the cut throat world of business where success is a figure and as long as that figure is the right one – well who cares about the fall out? The truth is schools have been run like business’s for some time now…. But at least the person in charge still vaguely remembers what the purpose of education is (Well they should!); they remember what it is to teach, to plan, to be held to account by leaders who don’t have Billy, Carol and Frank on their case each and every hour of the day.
Maybe the reports finding that there is a lack of people within education willing to take on such roles might be a key issue. Why would that be I wonder? Why is at that the current generation of teachers are avoiding school leadership?
The joint study from the Future Leaders Trust, Teaching Leaders and Teach First highlights the following four points
Not effectively incentivised to apply
I wonder why? Is it the accountability system by any chance? Turning children in to binary digits where your leadership is your ability to get better and higher yields? Forget every book you ever read about learning, forget the great educators and their visions. Just get me more and more of the new higher and higher standard of 3 R’s. It’s no longer good enough to have the most literate generation leaving schools; we want Literate +++
Recruitment and placement is inconsistent
Just how many years can you work in the most challenging areas? If your formula is working then maybe many… But you need time (and quite a bit of luck) when you work in the most challenging areas. There is none of that in the system. I don’t care if you pay me more than the Prime Minister. The rewards are just not there unless you give me 5 years. No chance of that.
Leadership opportunities are limited and variable
This is why they want the regional manager of Phones4U to run a school. The reason the opportunities are limited is most teachers see what leadership in schools is first hand and they know what it will mean to step up to the plate. They are not fools; worse still to cut your teeth as a school leader you have to be a teaching goddess whilst having the strategic vision of a general and the tact of a crisis mediator (plus Mark 60 books a day).
Leaders don’t get the level of support or feel motivation that would keep them in leadership roles.
I think my blogs speak for my feeling on the value and support placed upon and given to leaders. I have plenty of wonderful local support. But, this government (in fact all governments I have worked under) play games with education and have no real understanding of what the professional could do to make a brighter more effective system. There is too much mistrust to truly break away and do something amazing… By the way – more and more testing is not the answer.
According to the TES article the DFE do not recognise the figures regarding the impending leadership crisis (as we know the DFE are good at figures as the following tweet this week illustrates – 70% of white working class boys from grammars go to uni vs 54% from comprehensives. What do you think about grammars). According to them the proportion of school reporting headteacher vacancies has decreased. I wonder if that has anything to do with internal development of heads of schools within MATs?
I am not saying that the regional manager of Marks and Spencer’s could not make a brilliant school leader. I think they could though I would question any drive to shoe -horn leaders from business in to the role rather than grow leaders through the education system. To do that you have to make the role of school leadership a desirable option. You can not achieve this in a results driven, dog eat dog system. You will never achieve this in the current climate, all you will do is continue to divide education and de-skill school leaders who will in turn become even more detached from the most important element – teachers. Leaders need to be educators at heart and desperate recruitment plans, based on fear, will do nothing to grow them within the profession.
Would anyone ever recommend to put a headteacher in charge of a dental practice or lead a troop of soldiers in to combat? We know they would not, for good reason. Presuming that anyone with some leadership skills can lead a school reeks of the usual hierarchy of the advanteged middle classes (Toby Young anyone?) acting upon their belief that they can do a better job in schools. It is rhetoric and reminds me of the bullying parents who hold teachers hostage during a parents evening making demands that they feel are reasonable but in reality would never work in an inclusive school environment. It is this mindset that is so rife in education policy that has helped caused the shortage in the first place.