Abandonment of policy and a growing ‘cult of managerialism’ in education…

Interesting piece by Frank Furedi in the Times Educational Supplement this week. It’s a well-aimed dig at managerialisation within education. It highlights a broader degradation of policy-making in England, courtesy of several generations of activist politicians.

Yet some knock-on effects are evident elsewhere too (not least in devolved regions where there’s a dearth of policy innovation so that London-originated fads can get consumed and replicated without a huge amount of added thought.

The cult of the leader in school prevalent at the moment, particularly as a means of devolving responsibility for poor outcomes to points lower down in the system…

The current fad of isolating leadership as a stand-alone accomplishment is likely to have a damaging effect on education. Contrary to current managerial wisdom, leadership is not a generic skill that can be imported into any institutional setting. The use of administrators with MBAs and other ‘leadership’ qualifications in US schools or in higher education has done nothing to improve the quality of education. Efficient administrators and managers are vital for the accomplishment of essential technical tasks. But schools need direction from experienced and inspiring educators who are thoroughly immersed in the day-to-day issues confronting classrooms.

Leadership in the context of primary and secondary schools has its foundation in the experience of education and on the authority that a teacher has gained through that practice. As Aristotle argued in his discussion of virtue of phronesis – the practical wisdom that is gained from experience – leadership requires the capacity to make judgement calls. In the context of education, that demands the cultivation of professional judgement. If British society wants its school and department heads to be authoritative and inspirational individuals, it needs to provide far greater latitude for teachers to develop the virtue of phronesis. They need far greater encouragement to exercise initiative and to make judgement calls.


  • chrisjones2

    Spread the blame or devolve money and decision making in return for results. Only the outcomes matter in the end. Let them buy the policy where they will

  • ronanpeter

    You can look back to Thatcher & Major, continued by Blair, for this trend. It is nothing new. (Education Act 1988; Competition Act 1998; The Future of Higher Education White Paper 2003; the Research Excellence Framework 2014; the Bologna Process; the Browne Review)

    Polices concerned with educational institutions becoming ‘knowledge providers’ and the concept of ‘students as consumers’. neo-liberalism at heart. There is no bigger vote puller than good economic stats (jobs!) and our education system has been designed to service this all in the name of perpetual economic growth.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Isn’t the move of schools to academies in England already doing that to a rather extreme level?

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…but it’s not extreme. Give schools the power and remit and monitor the outcome making sure that failure leads to funding withdrawal. Then cut the department by say 80% and abolish all the other “supervisory” bodies that gum up the system. Be prepared that in the first 5 years around 30% of head teachers won’t cope but many will survive and many will shine

  • mickfealty

    It’s just another public – private interface that will go, as you put it, unsupervised. They don’t actually liquidate costs and benefits, they just privatise them, making them unaccountable.

    Don’t believe me? Look at the size and ownership of the new Trusts.

  • chrisjones2

    It can do or it can be better structured and managed here …we are small enough to do it better

  • mickfealty

    That’s unusually uncynical of you Chris. I really don’t see the case for privatising the benefits of a publicly funded education service.

  • Abucs

    I think in the past we made the mistake of nationalising the benefits of a Christian education system.