A failure of leadership;Opinion

5th June 1998 at 01:00
The Nicolson Institute in Stornoway (page six) has become notorious for breakdowns in human relations. Ten years ago, the headteacher was accused of mismanagement by the director of education. The current incumbent has been put on probation. Now the whole school board has resigned. An island community where everyone knows everyone else's business is fertile ground for tensions and accusations of hidden agendas. But there are matters of wider concern in the latest outburst.

Throughout the decade of school boards none has previously resigned en bloc. Teachers at the Nicolson say the board is serving another master and not the school, which faces amalgamation with the smaller Lews Castle and therewith reappointment of senior managers. Outsiders are in no position to judge whether the board has acted off its own bat or been influenced by councillors or officials. But it has to be said that a school board does not exist to defend staff interests. Teachers have their own lines of defence, ranging from consultative meetings with employers to professional associations.

The board's role is to represent the wider interests of the school in its community. That may involve speaking up for parents, or it may mean promoting the school's cause alongside that of other institution. One of the elements in modern headteacher training has to be handling of the board, which can add value to a school's achievements when things are going well and also be a channel for its defence. Undermining a board so that it resigns, whatever the reasons, is a failure of leadership.

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