Thursday, January 18, 2007

School Destruction Programme- Latest

The school has never been more open to change

The biggest single factor determining whether a school is successful is the head teacher.

That's common sense, isn't it. The head has to organise and inspire the school, hire and fire the teachers, and most important, provide that magic leadership stuff.

Which means that the head has to understand the business of teaching, inside out. And the only way of getting that is by working at what used to be called the chalkface.

So it's unsurprising that all the headteachers in Britain's top private schools have worked their way up from the classroom. Even media headmasters like Anthony Seldon (headmaster of Wellington College) have put in the time with 5c. Without that experience, they would never have the necessary knowledge and skills to do the job well: they certainly wouldn't have the necessary credibility with staff or more importantly, the paying customers, aka the parents.

To be sure, they probably employ a bursar who brings business rather than teaching experience, and who takes care of all the tedious financial and operational details. But the Big Buck stops with a professional teacher.

Sadly, in our beleaguered state schools things aren't so simple. There, the customers are not the parents, but the Commissars. And as everybody knows, Commissars are much less straightforward than parents.

To begin with, they never really know what they want, and are constantly flip-flopping from one harebrained scheme to the next. Then, they think they know more about education than the teachers themselves, so keep forcing the heads to follow this or that current fad as the mood takes them. Then, they want lots of paperwork and general box-ticking so they can assess performance against their contextualised equality skills social outreach matrix. Then... well, we all know the score.

The upshot, as we've blogged many times (eg here), is a crisis in headteacher recruitment and retention: would you want to do a job where you had to answer to the likes of Alan Johnson and the amazing Jim Knight- neither of whom has any education experience- telling you what to do and how to do it? No wonder headteachers are leaving in droves.

As it happens, Mrs T used to be a teacher and we therefore know a number of state school headteachers. Except that now it would be more accurate to say we know a number of ex- state school headteachers: they're all taking early retirement as quickly as they can manage it, often with stress related illnesses.

And the vacant posts can't be filled. According to the National Association of Headteachers 1200 state schools in England alone were without a permanent head last year. It is scandalous.

So what are the Commissars doing about it?

What do you think?

Yes, that's right- they hired consultants to come up with a solution.

And education ahem experts PriceWaterhouseCoopers- at the cost of goodness knows what fee- have duly delivered the answer.

According to them, you don't actually need a professional teacher to run a school: you could hire someone from industry. Maybe a consultant even. You just need someone who can organise stuff and get the forms filled in on time.

Now you know that's rubbish. I know that's rubbish, and perhaps more importantly, the teachers know that's rubbish.

But none of that counts. Ando obviously, the parents won't get a say.

The desperate block-headed Commissars will decide, and I think we already know how that will go.

Still, at least there's one silver lining: the money we've paid across to those PWC consultants should help pay a few of their own private school fees.

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