Listen, co-operate, harmonise

9th December 1994 at 00:00
Most of us who work in schools would agree with Phil Kelly's aim of supporting good practice in education, and with his judgment that good schools enable children to succeed both academically and socially in contributing towards the creation of a worthwhile future for themselves and for others (TES, Letters, November 25). However, it is somewhat disturbing to find that he sees himself, and other councillors and LEA officers, as the architects of, and leaders in, the debate about what constitutes good practice.

As he points out, LEAs have in the past presided over what, in his own terms, were unsuccessful schools that failed their pupils. It would, therefore, be interesting to know what has happened post local management that has enlightened LEAs to such an extent that they can now provide us with meaningful leadership and support.

A good example of "LEA-speak" is to be found in Mr Kelly's use of the term "partnership" to describe the working relationship that he envisages between schools and LEAs.

It is clear that he is not really looking for a partnership - LEAs never have - as I can't imagine a partnership where one of the parties is, as a matter of right, the leader who sets the objectives and provides the advice and support to achieve them.

In any case, Mr Kelly's objection to these objectives seems to be that they are of a political nature because they come from the Government; is he seriously suggesting that objectives that are set by the LEA have been, or will be, other than politically and subjectively motivated?

Surely, the reality is that LMS has shown many of us that we can now exist without LEAs. This is not to say that schools can do without good advice and support, but the existence of the LEA as a body is no longer a necessary condition for schools to receive advice and support. We can now get these elsewhere.

Finally, to pick up on Phil Kelly's musical metaphor, in which he sees councillors and education officers as "conductors of the education orchestra" whose absence would result in "chaos and disharmony". Friends who play in orchestras tell me that they often work with a professional conductor who frustrates and confuses them.

Small chamber groups and ensembles manage to find harmony and order by co-operation and, most importantly, by listening to how each member of the group is playing.

Good schools, I suspect, are essentially small chamber groups.



Crownfield Junior School.

White Hart Lane.

Collier Row.

Romford, Essex.

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