Conference diary;Briefing;School management

1st October 1999 at 01:00
The power of money. In Rotorua in northern New Zealand, there are 45 primary schools. They got together and went to the local banks to see which one would offer them the best deal if they pooled their accounts. One bank came back with offers of cheaper mortgages for teachers and a whole package of attractive deals for the schools. It even offered to pay for a travelling fellowship for the principals which is how Graeme Lomas came to be telling this story in Manchester. His school, Owhata primary, made a pound;200,000 profit last year, "and 'profit' is not a word we are afraid to use because we have to use our money wisely," said Lomas.

Lomas, a genial double for the great All Black Murray Mexted with a real can do attitude, had little time for the gloomy picture painted by Janet Ouston (see above). Schools can make a real difference, Lomas insisted. His school - 68 per cent Maori in a tough part of town - has hardly been vandalised in eight years because Lomas did a deal with the local gangs and because he goes for full community involvement. It helps that he is the size of Murray Mexted. Check out the website: Power in the staffroom. Dean Fink, former principal, inspector, and academic at Toronto University, was talking about the micro-politics of schools and describing the informal authority that exists. The person who explains how the school works to newcomers, he says, often has no formal position, but wields a lot of power. The coffee circle at one school he visited consisted of 15 people out of a staff of 80, but they set the agenda. Within the school, many see the head's role as resolving conflict, but Fink argues that the job is one of conflict containment. A mature school can tolerate different opinions, and not push things under the carpet. Fink described a school marked by the sharpness of staffroom discussion. "It was the best professional development I ever had," one teacher told him.

Sex reared its head in a talk by Chris Hodgkinson, another Canadian. Just as sex exists for the transfer of genes, so administration exists for the transfer of values, said the professor of educational administration at the University of Victoria. Sex is a very messy business, he observed - and so too is administration. He was trying to say that ethical and heartfelt leadership is important. "Do not listen to reason, it will betray you. Listen to your heart," he toldheadteachers, warning against "the retreat to managerialism".

When asked whether the heads should lead according to authority directives, Professor Hodgkinson said that true moral leadership comes from "introspection". "There are not that many free thinkers in the world, and those who are, are true leaders", he said.

"The testing ground for leader development is value conflict. Such conflict is not only inevitable, it is to be embraced. Sometimes more power in the deepest sense can be gained from defeat than from victory. In all administrative careers the time of testing comes. And again it comes. Will one then be tempted by power? ... I call this the ethical moment of leadership."

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