Make no mistake, that's the truth

10th June 2005 at 01:00
Recently on BBC1's Question Time, a member of the audience categorically stated that "perception is the truth". Host David Dimbleby did not question her and it seemed as if the statement was accepted as a truism.

Perception can be influential and we do make a number of judgements based on it. However, if we transfer this philosophy - that what people perceive to be the truth is the truth - into education, it raises some interesting issues. Some might appear to justify the original claim, but it remains a dangerous one to make.

For example, take the claim that non-teaching headships are less demanding.

Non-teaching heads may dispute this, saying that the extra number of adults they have to deal with multiplies all aspects of their work - which then exceeds that expected of their colleagues, who are teaching heads.

They would argue that it is often easier to get a small number of people working together, and teaching heads have the advantage of leading by example. But most teaching heads feel that the demands of their job means their classroom practice suffers.

Another perception that appears to be true is that more adults in a classroom make teaching easier. With the new play-based foundation stage for three to seven-year-olds in mind, it is worth noting that teachers who have worked successfully with a registered nursery nurse or learning support assistant will find that having to organise four, or even five, adults requires more time.

How many heads feel they need more time to delegate duties to staff, so much so that they often end up doing the tasks themselves as it takes up less time?

Finally, how about the perception-truth that parents always want the best for their children? Politicians love this idea. Leaving aside the sad fact that some parents have great difficulty in being involved in their children's lives at all, the fact is that most of them genuinely do not have the time to be as supportive as they would wish. Could it be that the only members of our society who have enough time to do more than one full-time job properly are full-time politicians?

For too long the world of education has been re-organised by people who find perceived solutions to perceived problems. It should be left to those who work with the reality of the situation to find real solutions to real problems.

Gwilym Jones is head of Ysgol Y Wern in Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot

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