Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Headteachers

I am quite often a member of a group of primary and nursery school headteachers. I've been thinking for a few years about some of the things that happen in these groups.

The group usually seems to open with a sense of performance. Most of us in the group seem to be pretty extrovert and used to having groups of people (children at assemblies, staff in meetings) looking at us and hanging on our words.

So a difficulty arises: there are a whole lot of us who are used to holding the floor. In a group there is only easy space for one person to take up this role. More than one - it becomes uneasy.

It seems to me, that a solution to this tension is that the group gangs up against whoever is talking to us. So there is persistent backchat and interruption. Mocking looks are exchanged. The speaker usually becomes unsettled.

Sometimes the speaker crumbles in the face of this. More usually, in my observation, the speaker will turn the subject either to a matter of statistics, or Ofsted inspection. As a group, we become quickly attentive when the speaker says something like "the local authority will collect these figures and monitor them quarterly, and funding decisions will be based on this monitoring". Even better, speakers try something like "and in your next Ofsted, a key part of the judgement you get will be based on your figures for this and evidence of what you are doing about it."

In my experience, the following matters are practically never discussed by us, groups of headteachers:

  • Theories about how children learn, and how adults can best teach them;
  • What we can learn from recent history in education;
  • The sort of values which should inform education