Change, change, change

19th August 2005 at 01:00
Roger Stewart may well be right (page 13). Schools could be in for a period of unprecedented turmoil (our phrase) as they grapple with the challenges of social inclusion and flexibility in learning - to which he might have added the forces of technology. The way schools are managed will inevitably have to respond to these pressures, whether they like it or not. We are in the era of paying greater homage to the needs of the consumers than the producers, and teachers are undoubtedly feeling the downside of that.

But the great divide in the process of reform is perception. Mr Stewart may be impressed by the beauty of his vision; for others, it is a terrible beauty that is being born. Comments from teachers this week (Scotland Plus 2-3) reveal starkly and diametrically opposed views of what a well-run school should look like. Many principal teachers feel so strongly they have refused to apply for the new jobs on offer. This is not just a matter of salary: they fundamentally disagree with the new structures. Meanwhile, life is passing them by and they feel devalued. Retirement beckons for many, of course, and perhaps the issue will eventually go away.

There are those who could be won over and do not have objections in principle, but simply do not like the restructured model being proposed.

This is a test of management: it may have the power but, as was often said in another context, the power of the president in the United States is simply the power to persuade. If anything has been learnt from the Higher Still implosion, it was surely the gap that opened up in the perception of what was being proposed; it was a failure of persuasion, of course, but it was also a failure to take full account of school and classroom realities.

It is not just schools that are feeling the firm smack of reform, as the departure of John Stodter as education director in Aberdeen illustrates (page three). The traditional directorates are now being transformed into departments of children's services and their power is being devolved to neighbourhoods and headteachers. But did Enoch Powell not observe that power devolved is power retained?

Teachers will be hoping that whoever has the power to restructure and manage will use it well.

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