Am I a good manager? An improving manager? How do I know? This text is another helpful contribution in the Master Classes in Education Series, which seeks to address the professional development needs of education managers and also those working in the fields of health promotion and youth work.
Many of us end up in managerial positions in schools or other organisations without having taken much time, if any, to reflect on the key principles that underpin our roles as managers. This thin volume (138 pages) provides a clear and concise overview of the territory. Anne Gold and Jennifer Evans, both at the Institute of Education in London, have written a practical and accessible handbook for teachers at all levels of management responsibility in schools. The hope is expressed that "a maths co-ordinator in a primary school will find it as helpful and thought-provoking as a head of a drama department in a secondary school". This hope is realised, and the co-authors are to be congratulated.
Theory and practice are well balanced. Philosophy and values of educational management are tackled at the outset, but straightaway the reader is offered accessible and practical activities that could easily be used in departmental or school training sessions. This quickly leads into further practical activities aimed at helping the reader articulate school culture and ethos. Structures and how these relate to decision-making routes in schools are considered next. The old chestnuts are handled in turn - self, time, and systems management - followed by working with people and developing staff.
School management at the end of the century is set in the inescapable context of market forces. The theme of reflection continues into the chapter on finance and resources, not everybody's favourite topic, but the authors introduce a refreshing analysis of the power balances and values that underpin financial decisions. Discussion of the school's interface with outside agencies, though brief, covers parents, governors, the local education authority, OFSTED, the local community and others.
The appeal of this handbook lies in its simplicity, its practical exercises and its thoroughness within such a short compass. Its realism stems from its grounding in the reality of everyday school life. The authors have worked closely with teachers and school managers. Reflecting on School Management is a neat example of how the best educational research is informing, and being informed by, what is actually happening in our schools and classrooms.
Managing in Turbulent Times, the title of the final chapter (by Janet Ouston) is redolent of the Tom Peters' book, Thriving on Chaos. It is similarly optimistic.
I have been searching for the essence of this little book: perhaps it is its femininity. It ends with the following statement from an experienced headteacher, Mary Marsh: "In terms of values I am passionately committed to openness, trust and being direct. I'm very aware of how vulnerable people's confidence and trust is. I'm looking to do things with other people, rather than to or for them - that's fundamental."
And fundamental to this type of management (or is it leadership?) is the need, constantly, to be "reflecting on school management".
Ged Ward * The writer is headteacher at Henbury school, Cheshire