Saturday, August 03, 2013


The shift in Education Leadership lately has been towards a business model of management.  I've never worked in an office but I've seen The Office and as far as I can comprehend the business model basically consists of a complete tosser at the top who has no idea what they are doing/might be good at managing one thing, middle management who don't care and the plebs who do all the important stuff while stealing the highlighters when no one is looking.  It's a money driven system with an agenda of maintaining or expanding a commodity.

In teaching, it is ridiculous to think of learning and students as a commodity.  A commodity implies that there is a direct return on an investment, which is all well and good in theory except that the business world is notoriously impatient and only wants results in one form (economics).  Getting an economic return on the student investment will probably not be evident for 30-50 years if something was put in place today.  This is too long for a political party to wait in order to brag about their effectiveness in government.  Despite allegations to the contrary I honestly do no believe any of the major political parties want to promote anything that won't show a result within their term of governing.  Is this cynical of me?  It's only true.  Furthermore isn't the return we actually want to see is a healthy, happy community of people who are life long learners and critical thinkers?  Isn't THAT the point?  Oh wait, that's not the same as money.. okay.

When compared to the business model the current school model of leadership has some similarities particularly in that there is also a complete tosser at the top, middle management who don't care and plebs.  However while an office pleb has only a small level of authority, a school "pleb" gets to be King of the Castle in their own classroom.  They are the authority in a very real way.  This means that in order to have effective leadership of staff from the top, you absolutely need to make sure that at the bottom line what is being taught in the classroom is always at very best standard possible.  Therefore f you don't have excellent curriculum knowledge from the top then a few plebby teachers can ruin the stability of the school.  A shitty teacher = shitty parents = shitty school.

In my view, good leadership in schools comes not from economics but from exclusively employing exemplary, inspiring teachers with excellent knowledge of curriculum for the top jobs.  Yes, sure economics is important, as is being able to work out timetables and the like but these things can be learnt on the job (and let's face it, don't we all know trained monkeys who are able to work out timetables and meet with the accountant every 3 months?)

My view of leadership is not exactly shared by the Department of Education.  They speak of leading from experience and exemplary teaching but in fact the opposite is what is being pushed into leadership now.  Those on the road to leadership these days are groomed by Department heads more interested in management than Leadership.  There's a difference.  The moment schools become "managed" by business graduates who have an interest in economics rather than knowing exactly how to teach and lead curriculum is the moment schools lose out.

In my opinion a good school has personable managers, a healthy budget in surplus with excellent teachers who carry the load and get the job done.  An excellent school has a leadership team that could walk into any classroom and teach or help teachers plan a lesson in a way that inspires another teacher to be better at their job.  There is no surplus in the budget (perhaps just a rainy day fund) because the budget is used for resources, professional development and mentoring and to pay exemplary teachers extra money for excellent work and Leadership have a good idea of what the needs of staff and students are.

We are moving away from a model of excellent and moving towards 'good'.  This is horrific in my eyes.  I can see it happening right now in my place of work.  The latest promotion to a very senior leadership role at the school is a manager and not a leader and what is the most horrifying is that I know that this was desirable from the perspective of the school.

My idealism is crushed and my heart breaks for the kids and for the good teachers out there in Education.  We are heading down a very bad road by treating schools as companies or businesses.  Hiring a trained monkey may seem like a good economic choice but we are not in the business of economics.  We are in the business of learning and learning just happens to be a money pit politically speaking.  The thing is I don't care about the politics of it, I'm all about connecting the dots here.

If we hire trained monkeys at the top then what exactly do we expect is going to come out at the bottom?

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