This morning Clegg announced his grand new idea for education, a ‘Champions League’ of head teachers who could be sent in to show other heads in ‘failing’ schools how it’s done.
When we tweeted our scepticism of the idea one person replied, “What’s wrong with giving it a go?”
Well, where to start?
The fact is that teachers are constantly being told that they are doing it wrong and other people know how to do it better. This is demoralising whether you are a classroom teacher, middle management, or a head. Being ‘offered support’ has come to have a whole new meaning in education circles. People wince when they hear it, knowing that it will usually entail not genuine support, but a constant stream of critique that is undermining and destructive.
And it’s not like we haven’t been here before. The idea of ‘superheads' isn’t new. We’ve been presented with lots of people in the past and told that they were JUST the people to show the rest of us how it’s done. The question is does Nick Clegg mean a superhead like Richard Gilliland (who employed his son and his daughter and resigned after government auditors uncovered a series of extraordinary purchases including hi-tech gadgets, antiques and sex games), or like Jo Shuter (despite being given a CBE and a head teacher of the year award, she was forced to resign after a number of serious financial irregularities were found), or like Sir Alan Davies (knighted for services to education he narrowly avoided jail after pleading guilty to six charges of false accounting)?
Do you see where we're going with this?
For the record we don't know any teachers - heads or otherwise - who don't want to get better at what they do. And mentoring and coaching done in a collegiate way can be extremely effective. Sharing and building on good practice is essential to developing and improving education (and incidentally is one of the many things which performance related pay could destroy).
But do we need 'superheads' imposed on us again? Thanks, but it didn't work out too well last time around, and we're not convinced it'll be any different this time. If you'll excuse us, we'll pass.