Premier League school leadership?

Yessss! The UK have come top at something in the PISA rankings! Read all about it here in the OECD’s report Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders for the 21st Century it tells us how good UK school leaders are on page 17.

An article in the TES 16.03.12  gives an excellent summary of this morale boosting news. Surely the Government will seize on this opportunity to celebrate the successful investment in school leadership training?

“We are top of the league, say we are top of the league.”

Sadly, the chances are you missed this story.

The fact is, we only seem to hear about PISA rankings when British outcomes are compared unfavourably with Scandinavian and Asian scores, or if they support Government rhetoric.

No, the focus this weekend was the revelation of proposals to regionally adjust public sector pay. At a time when Principals and Heads are retiring at an accelerating pace, the decision to make school leadership even less appealing in some of the more challenging parts of the country is mystifying.

Back to our local League table. We have the male and female equivalents of Sir Alec Fergusons, some AVBs and quite a few David Moyes; we even have an Arsene Wenger. None could question the commitment of any of them in their pursuit of better scores and improved life-chances for their students. I’m confident that any of us in the League could recognise the qualities required to lead learning in a school community.

When Sir Michael Wilshaw (Chief Inspector of Schools) announced that 5000 heads in the UK were “not up to scratch”, he was using Ofsted judgements (from a number of differing frameworks), and these are predicated purely on data. The Ofsted framework does not capture or attempt to record a deeper understanding of local issues, interwoven with economic, health and inclusion issues.

If you tell the public that school leaders aren’t any good – they will believe it. If parents and students begin to believe it they may join the ranks of the boo-boys looking for excuses not to engage or follow. Why not celebrate the strengths highlighted in this report?

Either end of the table – Sir Alec Ferguson and the erstwhile Wolves boss, Mick McCarthy (Mirror Football).

Unfortunately in this League, if you lose a few key players, lose the support of the board or the fans turn against you, results can dip and you can be horribly exposed. Public debate ensues, perception becomes fact and good leaders can go under due to circumstances beyond their control.

I’ve been leading a confident school for nearly four years and I don’t have a Roman Ambramovich time-bomb contract and unlike the followers of Premier League clubs, I don’t want to see anyone losing their job or being relegated at the end of the season.

Never mind the moving Ofsted goal posts, players at the DfE might be putting the ball through their own net if UK leaders up-sticks and head off to International positions where their skills will be appreciated.

But in all seriousness, the most important question must be: if our leadership qualities are so highly regarded, why are our educational outcomes so stubbornly mid-table?

Any suggestions?


9 thoughts on “Premier League school leadership?

  1. RWM_LearningLab

    If the content of curriculum(dictated by Goverment for 30 odd years) is stuck in a bye gone age, producing pupils to be obedient to society, working in factories etc. Even the most brilliant Leaders, which we have in Education, cannot push UK up the world league tables. We need to rethink the whole UK education system and not “tinker at the edges”. If this were to happen and pupils were to be engaged in education that will be useful in their lives

    1. RWM_LearningLab

      Then individuals and UK would climb quickly up the tables. Employers and Universities would get the type of educated young people that they crave !!!

    2. Kieran J Earley

      I agree. It sounds rather trite but we appear more obsessed with measuring rather than educating in the UK at times. We are freer than some to take the risks necessary but it shouldn’t only be the “confident” schools who are able to do this.

  2. Karen Stears

    The measure of an educational system’s success is the dynamism and humanity of the society it (re)produces. Lies, dam lies and statistics tend to provide/show whatever they’re designed to do; no more, no less. Leadership cannot be more successful than the organism/system it is leading. Like a general and his army or a surgeon and his patients. A Pyrrhic victory or a successful operation when the patient dies is not a positive outcome: until our educational system really starts to help the educationally disenfranchised members of our society then few of us as educators can relax. Perhaps we need to address the disconnect between leaders and the led. I return to a kettle word: communication.

  3. Karen Stears

    *key* word

  4. Ajewishman

    No body cares.

    1. Lolz

      level up!

  5. TomR

    Kieran, you raise a critical issue in your last sentence. I would suggest reading Michaels Fullan’s paper on “choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reform” – – for a glimpse of the answer. Age old attempts at reforming education systems without empowering teachers and leaders continues to fail. Einstein’s definition of madness comes to mind.

    1. This was a brilliant read, thanks.

      In some ways an even more direct version of the right ways of transforming education posited in “Professional Capital” by Fullan and Hargreaves this year.

      Fascinating word “culture” – we all use it to describe our individual circumstances but need to be more ambitious.

      Certainly educationalists need to wrest the agenda from the politicians, in addition to working round them.

      I will share this article extensively; thanks again.

      Kieran Earley
      Devonport High School for Boys

      01752 208787
      Twitter: @kieran_earley

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