Schools can learn from business by being more willing to let underperforming employees go and by getting teachers to embrace “standardisation” rather than “individuality” in their curriculum content, a schools minister has said.
Lord Nash, who used to work as a venture capitalist before going into government, made the comments in a speech on “what is relevant in business to education” at the Challenge Partnership national conference this morning.
“The question people often ask is ‘what is the difference between education leaders and business leaders?’,” he said.
“I think one of the things that it’s easy to say – but I have noticed – is that sometimes in education there is a tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt too often.”
The “best leaders in education” were “tough”, “have a real sense of pace”, and “realise the clock is ticking fast for their children,” he said.
“They always put children’s interests before those of adults.”
Lord Nash said that in his business career when he was “struggling with whether someone is going to make it”, he performed “a risk reward analysis”.
“How much better can this person get, and then what’s the downside and the upside of letting them go? Often when you do that the equation answers itself.”
However, he did concede that giving people the benefit of the doubt too often also went on in business. “We’re all guilty of that,” he said.
Lord Nash said that schools could also learn from business by embracing “standardisation” through multi-academy trusts (MATs) – particularly in the areas of curriculum content and lesson planning.
“I think in the past too often teachers have confused their individuality with their professionalism,” he said.
“Being a professional means embracing accountability, standardisation and consistency, although of course we want our teachers to be inspiring.”
Using standardised content would allow teachers to focus on delivery and differentiation, and would reduce workload, he argued.
He said it was impossible to “run an organisation of any size and any diversity, efficiently and effectively if you haven’t got consistent procedures”.
“Having NQTs writing curriculum content and lesson plans in my view is a bit like me as a venture capitalist sending one of our 22 year olds off to America with a plane ticket and saying ‘see if you can go and raise us some money’.
“The content has to be provided by the MAT based on evidence-based best practice across the group.”