After recent personal bad news and the
recent inquest hearing for Helen Mann in England, I am pushed more and more into thinking if the job is worth the pressure and sometimes very public humiliation that is put upon Management in schools.
It is hard to think of any other position where public decisions are made about your performance; where your efforts to be the best you can be are put on public record for all to see and comment on. I can’t think that anyone in a leadership role in school wants to do the job badly, lower standards and make life difficult for pupils and staff. It isn’t the sort of job that demands it.
At the end of the day, the main job of a Principal or Senior Leader in school is ‘to lead teaching and learning’ but all too often this primary role is becoming secondary as more and more pressure is put on leaders to be administrators, social workers, carers and, moreso, managers. The ability to develop a vision for a school, to focus on raising attainment of all pupils (not just those in standardised tests), to inspire children, to create a love of learning and lifelong learners is being constantly worn away in governmental bureaucracy, red-tape and target driven approaches to education.
Fewer and fewer teachers are putting themselves forward for principals’ positions because more and more teachers see that it is a no-win position. It is astonishing now that there are still people willing to ‘take on the challenge’ instead of being willing to ‘accept the joy’ of being a Principal.
The Deartment of Education, through the Education and Training Inspectorate must look at how to develop a more shared, collaborative and supportive partnership for schools and school leaders. The ‘surprise’ inspection that lasts 3 days, from a team that has very little contact with the school and then writing a report based on this short window of observation places an unnecessary burden on school leaders and whole school communities.
Why not develop a collaborative relationship with the school over a period of time? Look at the progress a school is making year on year; give guidance and pointers to examples of good practice from other schools and professionals while at the same time ensure the school is being monitored in its obligation to raising standards and meeting expectations. Surely this type of cooperation, collaboration and sharing is exactly what the DE is asking us to teach to our pupils and practise amongst schools? It hardly makes sense to see that the same branch of government doesn’t practise the same.
I can’t imagine that any head teacher takes the position in a school to have an easy life – it isn’t feasible. That’s not to say there are no bad head teachers, of course there are. It would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise – just like there are underperforming individuals in every job. However, I have to assume that people take these positions because they feel that they can make a difference to the fragile lives around them, be the spark and the enthusiasm in a school. All to often we worry that the job isn’t worth it when it should be. Teaching is a brilliant job and being a principal should be the pinnacle for any teacher; the aim or goal for teachers – who want it. What could be more rewarding than having the opportunity to help children lead more fulfilling lives or enable teachers to become better professionals so that, one day, they would also want to lead a school if they felt it was for them.
All to frequently it is teachers’ and principals’ families who are the more fragile as their committed, enthusiastic, loyal family member feels that they can’t cope with the pressures that modern school leadership brings.