Why Public Scrutiny in Education has gone too far…

It was the late Psychologist Carl Rogers who over forty years ago said;

“Our educational system takes the view that the nature of the individual is such that he cannot be trusted. That he must be guided, instructed and controlled by those who are wise or higher in status”

It does not matter that he was an American. His statement is just as true for the UK Education System. The evidence is clear for all to see; Guidance, instruction and control in our system has led to increased powers for some and decreased powers for others. It has led to the creation of a culture where many a school leader;
– No longer has the same level of autonomy and freedom that they once had
– In spite of their reduced powers they are held to exacting accountability standards and sometimes… for decisions that are not even theirs to own
– Can disappear from the system, simply because they were found to be ‘failing’ against criteria over which they had no ownership or knowledge, yet despite this, were found to be wanting and hence disposable
Quite simply, increased public scrutiny and personal accountability for School Leaders has gone too far. The rules of the game have changed. The goal posts have moved (and keep moving) yet School Leaders are still held accountable for the outcome of a game for which they are no longer the main players and have virtually no say in the rules.
There are many critics of what is wrong with our current education system and I amongst other educationalists commented in a Guardian article back in September 2018, about what needs to change.
Had there been room to Comment further, I would have made these three additional points as to why public scrutiny and personal accountability for School Leaders has gone too far.

1. Fear only serves to reinforce feelings of ineptitude and failure

Our education system will continue to limp forward if fear is maintained as the key driver for increasing standards.  When individuals are fearful they do not operate at their best. This stands for children as well as adults. Individuals who are fearful of those ‘above them’ will not adopt the mindset or the behaviours that will enable them to achieve greater things.
There may be a short-term spike in results, but that is all it will ever be. Short term. Fear can never bring about the changes that are required in human behaviour for individuals to achieve long-lasting and sustained success. It is impossible.

2. Teachers and School Leaders need to maintain their sense of vocation

It is my belief that a sense of vocation is what makes an exceptional teacher or school leader. When an individual’s work is infused with their sense of vocation, everyone feels it!
For the individual their endeavours have meaning and purpose and for those on the receiving end, their actions are given meaning and purpose too. However, with accountability structures as they currently exist, teachers and School Leaders are far too often prevented from partaking in cogent dialogue with what matters most to them. As a result, many are left bereft of that which could bring added rigour and vitality to their roles

3. Labels restrict growth

The reductionist nature of education system’s public scrutiny and personal accountability systems has simply led to teachers, pupils and School Leaders labelling themselves restrictively. Self-worth becomes linked to a number, a grade, a label, praise or criticism from another. Hardly anything is done to nurture or support a person’s intrinsic sense of self and who they really are. To quote Carl Rogers again;

There is no longer a place for the whole person in the education system”

Education has to be about lighting a fire and keeping that fire burning.  For both children and adults. For many School Leaders today, their fire and their ability to light one in others, has lost some of its potency.
Yes, personal accountability and public scrutiny are part of the school leader’s role. However, if we are serious in our attempts to use education as a tool for supporting ‘each person’s possibilities’, then we have to stop pouring cold water on the hopes and aspirations of those who have bravely chosen to take on the mantle of School Leadership.


Rising to the Challenges of Headship

From managing excessive workloads, the impact of budget cuts and high levels of personal accountability and public scrutiny – over the years, the role of Headship has always been fraught with challenges and pressures.
However, since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic back in March 2020, sadly we’ve seen the intense demands on our School Leaders grow yet further.
Not only have leaders had to rapidly adapt to quickly changing government advice and establish new practices and protocols for virtual learning and health and safety monitoring, they’ve also been expected to provide support to their communities and inspiring leadership throughout these difficult times.
Having to manage months of relentless challenge and crisis management (alongside the emotional and psychological impact of the pandemic has taken on all of  us) has proven to be extremely challenging even for the most experienced and resilient Heads.
And it is now perhaps no surprise that many School Leaders who are reporting feeling battle weary, beleaguered and burnt out. As a result, an NAHT poll back in November 2020 found that almost half of Headteachers plan to leave prematurely – and 70% say job satisfaction has fallen in the past year.
With this, in mind – I believe there’s never been a stronger case for the need to ensure that our School Leaders are properly supported; strategically, operationally and emotionally to ensure they not only survive in the headship role, but also thrive in their attempts to deliver the best outcomes for our children.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects. Yet still, many Heads remain endemically under-supported, without spaces the need to off-load and encouragement they need as they manage the burden of the weight that they have been forced to carry.
Friends and family might offer a listening ear, but again it isn’t easy. Unless they have walked in your shoes, it can feel like no-one really fully understands what you are going through.
However, I know from my own experience as a Headteacher and now as an Executive coach that personalised support is vital, if leaders are to keep their hope alive and stay connected to their vision, passion and purpose.
That’s why I’m now offering free 1:1 Coaching calls to give senior leaders a chance to:
–  Talk through and get support with the challenges they’re currently facing
–  Reflect on events and the impact they’re having
–  Gain clarity about their current situation and plan a way forward

Book Your Call

 If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!



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