Good cops call for back up

4th July 2008 at 01:00
Would you describe your management style as more good cop or bad cop? More Pascoe than Dalziel? Or more Gene Hunt than Alex Drake?
Would you describe your management style as more good cop or bad cop? More Pascoe than Dalziel? Or more Gene Hunt than Alex Drake?

I always aspired to "police" my department with generosity of spirit and in the knowledge that all professionals are trying their best. But after a series of staffing issues in the English department, I felt I was increasingly having to play the bad cop. When hard-working pupils came to my classroom refusing to return to the lesson of the latest teacher we had reluctantly employed from the agency, and parents were leaving angry messages, it was clear my good cop requests were going unheeded.

So what's the next move? If you're losing sleep about an established member of your department who just isn't delivering, or a newly employed teacher is underperforming, you should voice your concerns to a senior line manager. It is unlikely that you will be able to turn things around instantly on your own - nor should you take on this burden.

Assuming you've tried all your good cop techniques - a confidential talk offering support but making it clear you have concerns about specific issues; drawing up Smart (specific, measureable etc) targets; being a regular but not invasive presence; making your expectations clear while maintaining a friendly, non-accusatory but firm disposition - don't be afraid to request support in turn from a member of the senior management team.

Teaching staff are paid to give all pupils every chance of success in their subject. Your job as middle manager is to make those expectations clear and support your team in achieving them. To do this you will have to remain the good cop, even if it's teeth-grittingly hard at times. Being the bad cop isn't much fun either, mind, so leave the tough talking to those who have the authority to make staffing changes. But if you hear your head asking "Do you feel lucky? Well do you, punk?" a new approach altogether might be needed.

Josephine Smith, Deputy headteacher, Long Field High School, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

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