Glut of experts bring needless complexity

16th March 2007 at 00:00
Kenny Frederick is head of George Green's community school in east London

Some of my best friends are consultants. This is not surprising when you think that most retiring headteachers now go on to do consultancy work in education. This is a new second career opportunity for those who have served their time on the front line.

There are plenty of opportunities for this kind of work because every new government initiative tends to bring up a new batch of "experts" to guide schools in the right direction. Many do a fine job and play an important role in helping us to deliver the goods. But it is a little galling when the latest initiative comes round and we are invited to seminars and conferences at which the latest experts talk us through a new set of guidelines, a whole new language and, most of all, a new "toolkit".

The reality is that most initiatives are not new - most of us have been doing them in some form for years. I often feel that we in education are in danger of over-thinking and over-complicating simple ideas. I say this because I read a lot of educational material and often attend conferences and seminars to keep up to date. However, I frequently come away from these thinking that everything could have been said in half the time and with far fewer fancy flowcharts.

It is very frustrating to be taken through things that we have always done, but with the latest buzz-words, frameworks and toolkits. I want experts to make things easier for me, not to confuse me and spend a whole day getting to the point.

Government initiatives are another bugbear. Take personalised learning, for example, which emerged from a speech made by David Miliband when he was schools minister. In the wake of his pronouncement, educationists competed to flesh out exactly what this idea was all about and produced a flood of literature, conferences and training courses.

We now have a whole industry built around what is, in truth, a fairly simplistic idea and one we have all been doing to some extent for many years. The number of experts in the field is growing and "personalisation"

now appears to have its own language. All we have to do now is measure the impact.

Another growth area for consultancy has arisen from the Every Child Matters and extended schools agendas, and I have to confess that I have jumped on this particular bandwagon myself and have appeared as the so-called "expert" at many conferences on the subject.

In my defence, I always try to be practical and give people something they can take away and use. I tell them the problems and the solutions we have found in our school but never suggest that they follow our framework. What works in one school may not work in another. This is why it is impossible to package things into neat bundles to roll out to all schools. Certainly, one size does not fit all.

It has always been my ambition to demystify headship - to tell it like it is. Yes, it's hard work and you have to have multiple skills and be able to juggle priorities. On the other hand, it's not rocket science. The more complicated we make it, the more colleagues we put off from applying for headships. I am years away from retirement so I still have time to decide what sort of consultant I will go on to be. Answers on a postcard, please.

Doubtless by then there will be some other new "big idea" to work on.

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