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.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty