A bogus 'new professionalism'

2nd May 2003 at 01:00
The report which followed the McCrone inquiry, A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century, made much of the need for a "new professionalism" within teaching.

Currently, local authorities all over Scotland are trying to implement the new recommended career structure for teachers. "New professionalism"?

Sadly, there is evidence that, faced with uncertainties about funding the lack of a national "toolkit" to size promoted posts and lack of defined time-scales, those responsible for managing change are falling back on discredited management and leadership models to cope with crisis.

Guidance is one example. It is instructive to note the content of your news item last week, "Guidance rejig 'not insuperable'". What is, apparently, not insuperable is the creation of new structures. Only one phrase in the whole article refers to people when we read of the need to "minimise the loss of assistant principal teacher of guidance posts".

In rejigging the system, people are affected, both students and teachers.

Replacing one structure with another is absolutely no guarantee of improved support for young people.

For example, many skilled and experienced guidance staff who stand to lose their posts altogether have unique and irreplaceable knowledge of the young people with whom they are currently working. Yet some authorities are simply sweeping away some of these people's jobs with no more than token consultation. New professionalism?

Years ago, McKinsey pointed out that management in the UK tended to focus on what he called "the hard S's" : structure, strategy, and systems. In the process, they missed the crucial importance of "the soft S's" : skills, style, and staff. They also tended to ignore the one thing that binds the whole S structure together - shared values.

Professionalism has always involved a range of things, including shared values and, above all, caring relationships in a school.

It is a desperate irony that, at the very moment when it matters most, many of those responsible for developing the "new professionalism" have fallen back on outdated and thoroughly discredited management practices: authoritarianism, secrecy, lack of meaningful consultation, lack of human caring - the very things which we all hoped the new settlement would eradicate.

Andrew Bruce

Polmont Road

Laurieston, by Falkirk

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