Complicit in their downfall

19th January 1996 at 00:00
Managing Teachers As Professionals In Schools, Edited by Hugh Busher and ReneSuran. Kogan Page in association with British Educational Management and Administration Society (BEMAS).Pounds 15.95 ISBN 07494 17749

Managing Teachers as Professionals in Schools, is part of a British Educational Management and Administration Society series that aims "to satisfy the growing need for short readable books designed for busy people". It debates what is involved professionally in being a teacher.

Jenny Ozga's chapter is far the most compelling and challenging. She has written previously about professionalism as a form of occupational control, and this latest work is easy to read and provides a critical perspective of the new managerialism. The experience of making teachers redundant in 1995, makes me sympathetic to a view that financial devolution is not about local control and a quest for equality. It is, in fact, a new model, whereby the government retains strategic control of teaching, curriculum and assessment, while it devolves to headteachers just the tactics for implementing the strategy.

Ms Ozga describes Total Quality Management as a new form of "institutional tyranny". She warns of "the tyranny of the rule book" (is this the Office for Standards in Education Handbook?) and the "school mission statement". Headteachers need to be wary of internalising and implementing a new form of managerial power which tightens bureaucratic control in school, manipulates professional rhetoric, extends surveillance and uses the school culture to ensure compliance of staff. If school managers unquestioningly embrace an externally-constructed agenda from a directive state, it contributes to a loss of control over the meaning and purpose of the work of teachers.

The second part of the book focuses directly on the work of teachers. Christopher Day reminds us that leadership, makes a difference to the quality of the lives of colleagues. He encourages us to create conditions that inspire and enhance professional development. A key element is the one-off, short, sharp bursts of policy implementation, awareness raising and information giving that should be the centre-piece of any staff training day.

A disappointing chapter is by the editors, Hugh Busher and Rene Saran. Needing to restructure my support staff, and well aware of the dearth of research in this area, I read it first. But it provides nothing useful for the practical manager.

The chapter grapples with problems of terminology, such as who are support staff. But categorisation into full-time, part-time, volunteers, visitors and others is not earth shattering. Nor is the description of changes in the their role since the introduction of local management of schools, or the conclusion that restructuring poses a considerable challenge to headteachers. And my staff might question the inclusion of OFSTED Inspectors. They had several descriptions of inspectors last term, but "support staff" was not one of them.

It claims to be a book written by "reflective practitioners who are working in schools or directly with those who do." The list of contributors, although academically very impressive, does not include one chalk-face practitioner. However, there are several useful messages. Hilary Constable argues, "To work effectively, teachers too have to be learners." A central task for headteachers is to "lead learners", to encourage and develop professionals and schools as centres of learning. We must never become too involved in our operational role, so pragmatic, that we do not have time to reflect, debate and question.

* Rosemary Litawskiis head of Mereway Upper School, Northampton, and tutors in school management on the Open University masters degree in education.

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