Let pupils be the judges of good or bad lessons

18th April 1997 at 01:00
Professor John MacBeath

Director of the Quality in Education Centre, University of Strathclyde I would like to see schools adopting much flatter management structures to replace the hierarchical set-up that exists now. Schools in Scotland have seven layers from the head down to the unpromoted classroom teacher. It's very bad for decision making, it disempowers people lower down the hierarchy and it stifles innovation.

In Germany headteachers are elected for five years and in Britain many universities, including my own, now elect heads of department. In schools it would mean good teachers returning to the classroom after a spell in middle management instead of being promoted out of it for good.

The inspections system should be radically shaken up to give pupils and parents a say in judgments made about schools. Children are especially important because they are the customers and they will tell you who the good and bad teachers are. They know when they're learning or not learning they are intolerant of bad discipline.

This has been criticised as soft but it's the opposite. It would make inspections much more rigorous because children are very good judges of what is going on. Under the present system inspectors see what the school wants them to see.

Schools could be a one-stop shop for all services - education, health, social work, counselling and so on. It would make it much easier for people who find it hard to deal with the system.

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