Some compulsory reading for politicians

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Daniel Pink's work on leadership offers six key lessons that UK politicians should pay close attention to if they want to help and support UK education.

There are some lovely reading materials that are put in my pigeon-hole. I would recommend Geoff Barton’s Pick ‘n’ Mix and John Townsley’s blogs. Here are two strong headteachers whose common-sense view of life and the idiosyncrasies of school leadership, in a time of daily change, provide much needed sanity.

At our school, recommending books we are reading is a major initiative, with book swaps between staff and students bringing much needed reading. 

Taking this a stage further, we have been looking at blogs, Twitter and methods of communication and reading that staff may access in this techno world. I would be fascinated to hear how teachers view the Daniel Pink Flip Manifesto which starts with the opening statement: “Have you ever suspected that some of the advice you’ve been getting has been wrong?”

My leadership has witnessed local authority mismanagement and the vagaries of nine education secretaries from the excellent Estelle Morris to mad Michael; this statement is for me correct. For the present government I would offer Mr Pink’s 16-point manifesto as the way forward with the six chapters on leadership not a recommended but a must read. Here are the key points:

  • Establish a Department of Why?

  • Scrap performance reviews.

  • For God’s sake talk like a human being.

  • Stop trying to maximise shareholder value.

  • Take the E test (search online for “The E Test Daniel Pink”).

  • Talk less, listen more.

Although this is a largely irreverent look at the world of leadership, there are some serious points that need reflection. Fundamentally, do we do things because they have always been like this? Should we not remember the reason we run schools?

My utter despair at the recent GCSE fiasco has been how the agenda has been hijacked by politicians who have trotted out soundbites: “standards”, “challenge” and “rigour” have been three nonsensical adjectives that have been cited to defend incompetence.

To this I would respond with “Mo”, “Ollie” and “Kyle”, three real boys who will not take re-sits and who missed out on their deserved apprenticeship places. Schools are about young people, leadership should be for young people. Interestingly, the reflection on payment by results highlights what I’ve always suspected; teachers came into the profession for the young people, not the money. We’d all earn a lot more doing something else.

As headteacher, I am the leader of a major business, employing 180 staff, running a 10-acre site with 1,100 students and a £5 million budget and receive £75,000. Mr Pink uses the research of a variety of American economists to prove this point with Fryer, Harvard University 2011, looking at a large pay as you perform programme undertaken in 200 public schools in New York over a three-year period. The results of significant pay as you perform incentives were: “Providing incentives to teachers ... did not increase student achievement.”

After spending £56 million on the pay for performance programme, unsurprisingly New York City stopped this worthless scheme. In Britain, have the golden hellos provided better teachers? Worryingly, the latest bonkers scheme to pay £21,000 for first class honours physics graduates to train to be teachers but not ever become teachers could be the latest fruitless exercise. Does changing the pay scale attract better people? This research would indicate not! 

You either passionately want to do this job or you don’t. There are no half measures and students are not a production line. The last point is for the current government, “talk less, listen more”.

  • Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.



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