Education Empowerment

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How can we empower teachers and schools without sucking the life out of the education system?

The following industry quotes are largely taken from the business sector. I wonder how many of them are true, and, given that education is rapidly becoming a commodity, how many of the following quotes from the business sector can be applied to the world of education.

In the following post, the word ’employees’ has been replaced with ‘teachers’. For example, in the first post: “have faith in your employees” has been edited and replaced with “teachers”, then I have offered a little context.

1. Have faith in your teachers.

It’s not progressive or traditional teaching that we need to have faith in, it’s the teachers we need to believe in, regardless of what and how they teach or what ideology politicians are promoting. How true is this in your school / business?

If you are a headteacher, do you truly have faith in all of your teachers?

2. Allow teachers to grow.

Nurturing teachers in schools is simple in principle but harder to achieve in reality. With reducing budgets, salaries timetable and increasing accountability, it’s very difficult to see how the profession can nurture our next generation of classroom teachers. Headteachers can create an environment which at least helps teachers find ways to innovate, but how possible is this if external pressures, such as finance and league tables, force headteachers to adopt an ‘exam factory’ system on all their teaching staff?

Is growth possible in a profession where risk-taking is stifled?

3. A organisation is only as good as its teachers.

The easy part is actually building a team of teachers around you that can enable an institution to move forward. The harder part is achieving all of the workforce to be on the ‘same page’.

If teachers are struggling – and let’s face it, this is always a minority of colleagues – does having valid and reliable evidence, when forcing accountability of an individual who doesn’t reach expectations, a fair process. How can we support individuals to step up to the mark? Would a shorter capability process improve schools, or weaken teacher employment laws?

4. Teachers need a sense of responsibility.

Regardless of policy, vision and values, teachers by nature are conscientious individuals who have an in-built moral responsibility. Teachers need guidance not rhetoric, and although this is impossible to achieve with external agencies, headteachers hold the cards here. They give teachers the responsibility to solve problems and the authority to act.

5. Have a clear vision.

Teachers need to believe in the school’s vision and values, and they are both very different. Although the school’s vision and values can often be stooped in history, both can also be held by the individual and can often align. When either is re-branded by a headteacher or consulted at whole-school level, it is important to make sure every teacher is clear and understands the school’s mission. More importantly in tumultuous times, can it be achieved.

6. The wider community.

The job of a headteacher is to make sure every student, parent and teacher has the opportunity to make an impact on the school and wider community. If everyone feels part of belonging to the community, they will have a sense that they are contributing to the greater good of society. Do teachers see themselves as part of the community, even though they may not actually live in the area where they work.

7. Love your school.

In business, customers do not love a product or a company if the employees do not love it first. This is why every teacher and headteacher must love the school in which they work so that students do too. If a teacher does not love their job, students can spot this like a ‘sore thumb’.

8. A happy school.

If schools can get the culture of the school right, then good teaching and the school’s reputation will empower future employees and students. If a headteacher can instil a sense of passion in their staff and students, then a happy school should happen on its own.

9. Treat them the way you want to be treated.

I suspect this industry quote on customer service will be the most questionable in the education community. Teaching bias is often divided into two distinct camps: progressive and traditional, with one believing that the child is central to the classroom and the other, the teacher.

With teachers central to all that is imparted in schools, “schools should treat their teaching staff the way they want their [customers] to be treated.”

Our ‘customers’ are our students and parents. How often do you think about education as a public service when ‘hearing another colleague’ scream at a child?

10. Everything else will follow.

If schools get the key things right, for example: behaviour, the ethos of the school, teaching and learning, most of the other stuff will follow. The problem that remains is ultimately that schools suffer because they cannot deliver a good service. This is because of factors outside of their control: they are choked by external accountability, performance measures and inaccurate assessment of their work. No wonder we are facing a recruitment crisis …

So, my final question is this. What would the business sector do to resolve a system that feels like it is on its knees? Leave your answers and thoughts in the comments section below …

This post was inspired by Employee Empowerment.

2 thoughts on “Education Empowerment

  1. Regroup as a profession (under the umbrella of the Chartered College maybe) and reassess where we have come from and where we want to be in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. We have lost the bigger picture perspective by allowing ourselves to be divided with accountability measures which are explicitly divisive.

    The talent pool is unbelievable! It’s the will and cohesion that’s missing.

  2. Offering my perspective as an experienced Governor/Trustee/HR professional:

    1 So good to read this Ross, sick of the whole trad/prog spats on Twitter. We appoint our teachers, have faith, don’t micromanage…….unless you absolutely have to, as part of capability or other concern.

    2 It’s up to SLT to ensure culture which allows teachers to grow, some SLT do this better than others. External pressures exist but Head’s role is to manage that eg someone tweeted that Sch Improvement Officer had requested data from class teachers, should not have got to class teacher. Head should have challenged. Why? What purpose? Who for? Is time spent collating worth info received or is this box ticking?

    3 Agree. A small minority may just not make the grade, even with appropriate support. Unions need to recognise this too and agree to shorter capability process. However, this should not be used by unscrupulous SLT to get rid of staff for other reasons. Openness. Honesty. Transparency. Equity. Fairness. Important.

    4-8 So very true!

    9 For me, this goes beyond just teacher/student relationship or who should or shouldn’t be at the centre. Treat your colleagues, your staff, parents, governors, everyone the way you yourself would like to be treated. Acknowledge when you get things wrong, no one is perfect. It’s not a sign of weakness to acknowledge or say sorry.

    10 Culture, ethos, vision, values – all responsibility of SLT and the Board. Get the right SLT and Board and the rest have a much better chance of following. Stakes are high and there is immense external pressure but some manage this much better than others. Those who don’t, pass this on to class teachers.

    All of your points apply equally to MATs – there are some behaving so badly, top down demands, little autonomy for school leaders, little support, removing staff without following fair, equitable procedures………..sometimes those pressures/demands come from within the organisation too.

    Finally, the College can help change some of this in time but for now, school leaders need to manage those external pressures. Where there is unfair assessment, challenge it and don’t be afraid to complain. No individual or organisation is perfect.

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