All-rounders are always in fashion

10th January 2003 at 00:00
STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP AND EDUCATIONAL IMPROVEMENT. By Margaret Preedy, Ron Glatter and Christine Wise

EFFECTIVE EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP. By Nigel Bennett, Megan Crawford and Marion Cartwright

LEADING PEOPLE AND TEAMS IN EDUCATION. By Lesley Kydd, Lesley Anderson and Wendy Newton. Paul Chapman pound;19.99 each (pbk)

When I first became a chief education officer in Oxfordshire in 1978, the chairman of the county council said:"All the other candidates had flair and good ideas but we settled on you because we wanted a manager, a no-nonsense administrator who knows how many beans make four and whom we can rely on to sort things out and make the most of our resources."

Ten years ago, when I was hired for the same job in Birmingham, the councillors justified their decision by saying: "We've had enough of managers. We want someone with ideas, who will take risks and persuade people that the sky's the limit."

Whatever the fashion, a successful organisation needs both management and leadership. Ideally you need all-rounders, but mostly you have to settle for lopsided people, work around them to get a balance and encourage everyone to improve their weaker suit.

These books have been produced by the Open University, so we can be sure of coherence and consistency without the makeweight chapters that sometimes appear in similar collections. They are readers for the OU's highly successful masters course, Leading and Managing for Effective Education, and one hopes that other course providers, including the National College for School Leadership, will include them on their reading lists. But there is more to these books than impressive academic pieces.

Strategic Leadership and Educational Improvement contains essays that will be invaluable to those seeking succinct guides to the subtle elements of school improvement. Two chapters on school cultures from Louise Stoll and David Hargreaves will illuminate and guide heads and teachers who want to take control of their working lives as they wrestle with the constant need to originate or respond to change. There's also an excellent and accessible survey of school improvement and school effectiveness by Peter Mortimore and John Macbeath, the latter also combining in another chapter to review practical models of school self- evaluation. I particularly enjoyed Agnes McMahon's account of the collapse and painful recovery of a Bristol primary school, which vividly illustrates an all-too-familiar issue: how difficult it is to take over from a highly successful leader.

The other two volumes also contain some gems. Keith Grint's persuasive essay on The Arts of Leadership in Effective Educational Leadership is uncannily accurate; he suggests that successful leaders paint an identity to which a community can relate and create a vision of how things could be, then work like mad at tactics to deliver the first steps. I had to work harder at Leading People and Teams in Education. A chapter by Mieke Clement and Roland Vandenbergh describes two case studies: one in which the headteacher's behaviour encouraged collegiality through staff professional development and the energy that comes from a discussion about teaching, learning and assessment; and another in which the head had precisely the opposite effect. Any headteacher would be wise to read it.

All the volumes would find a place in a secondary school staff library, but if my budget was tight I would settle for the first.

Tim Brighouse was recently appointed London's first schools commissioner

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