LBO Dec 2017
Your passion is found right between what makes you tick and what makes you ticked off. In a school context I pretty much know this. Talking with students who are enthused and excited about their experience of school is an example of what makes the job of working in a school so fulfilling. Equally anything that detracts from this sits on the opposite side of this balance.
Julian Astle has written about school leaders in terms of being missionaries or gamers. Missionaries make decisions shaped by their own sense of mission and values. Gamers are those whose decisions are shaped by external demands, usually set by government.
Most headteachers are missionaries at heart, driven by moral purpose. After all that will be why they became teachers in the first place and later heads. So why do most become pragmatists balancing mission with the day to day necessities of accountability while doing the best they can for their pupils?
Over a period of some years now the pressure to conform and to bend to the demands of external accountability have grown steadily. Ofsted inspection and performance tables have become the means by which successive governments shape what goes on in school all the while talking a good game of increased autonomy and new freedoms.
But we can now all see just what a wrong path these policies are taking us down. Education-by-numbers has become a time-consuming and morale-sapping game. It can feel to pupils and teachers that testing and examinations, and preparation for them, have replaced education leaving young people turned off learning and ill prepared for the wider challenges of life.
Exam outcomes are important, they matter. Qualifications provide a passport to next steps and schools should be held to account for doing a good job in this respect. But test and exam results should be but one part of the picture. If we are not turning out young people who are excited about learning, inquisitive and creative we have failed whatever the exam statistics say.
So now is the time for bold and ethical leadership so that our schools provide breadth of experience and high quality learning, as well as the qualifications needed for the next step. That’s the mission we must deliver in everyone’s interests.