Thursday, 26 February 2009

Lifting State School Leadership Through Community Practice

In the UK in early 2009, we still have a severe shortage of experienced or qualified state school Heads.

The effects of this are easy to see, with increased truancy, poor subject achievement in core subjects, increased drop out rates, disaffected sectors of local communities and rising crime levels. The cost of education budgets is clearly not offset against the cost of unemployment and crime levels.

Some years back, before the emerging Blue Oyster Corporate Responsibility was formed, the owners suggested having "Super Heads": where one head did well, they were given a number of local under-performing schools to run as well. The government was thinking along similar lines, and came up with the "Super School Academy" concept. This however has been counter-productive, with such massive school communities that pupils feel lost, and mere numbers to be "processed".

We still need to keep school communities small, yet improve leadership skills in the state sector. Without expensive and unaffordable pay hikes, it must be possible to provide targeted training programmes for state school leaders.

The state must fund leadership programmes for those in the state sector who show promise, and co-opt the private sector into allowing higher visibility of working practices.

What the UK state sector would find in the private sector would be a focus on uniformity of appearance, to allow focus on performance, and on a community ethic, involving students, teachers and parents in cross-boundary activity to ensure children "get" what it means to be a contributing community member.

Typical examples would be Xmas and May Fairs where pupils, students and staff work together to provide an event open beyond the school walls to the local community. Such events provide valuable experience working together as a team, providing services to customers and taking receipts which typically go towards charitable causes.

Many volunteers who contribute to such "enterprises" are the local community leaders apparent we need to provide cohesion and inclusion, and forward thinking schools and heads would do well to study this area as well as curricular studies and extra-curricular activities, to understand how leadership works in action.

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