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.
Over the last few years, there have been more than a few harmful narratives that have seeped their way into our education system. Our leaders now find themselves operating in a profession in which they’re increasingly expected to see pupils as data, their schools as businesses & fellow school leaders as rivals and competitors
Contrary to popular belief, these narratives are not supportive of our leaders and neither do they ensure the best outcomes for our children. Rather, they often only serve to demoralise, alienate & intensify the emotional challenges of school leadership.
That’s why in October 2020, we will once again host Headteachers & School Leaders from across the country for our very special “Education for the Soul” conference.
This conference will feature a new selection of expert speakers and workshop hosts, who will be sharing their insights into how school leaders can look after their own well-being, get the most out of those they lead and deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.
The conference will aim to build on the outcomes of our previous “Education for the Soul” conferences and seek to explore how school leaders and teachers can learn to lead with integrity, depth and purpose.
As part of this, we will look into how individuals can stay connected to their “why” and their deepest values. Above all, “Education for the Soul” 2020 will aim to help school leaders and teachers:
– Foster a deep sense of vocation and purpose amongst all staff
– Increase their understanding of the relationship between school development and personal development
– Keep hope, joy passion, commitment and creativity at the heart of their school and relationships with self and others