Slim line tensions

17th June 2005 at 01:00
The principles behind a delayered management structure, as proposed in many Scottish schools, are fairly straightforward, as are the motives behind their introduction. The letters printed in The TES Scotland over the last few weeks highlight the tensions emerging in Scottish education due to the move to flatter management structures.

A flatter management structure appeals to employers and senior management teams, as it suggests a reduction in costs due to fewer promoted posts and greater productivity due to a more customer-focused culture.

It is felt essential that for the flatter structure to deliver noticeably improved results a combination of team working, empowerment and cross- functional working is essential. Hence the need to develop faculties and the notion of a collegiate approach to work in schools.

However, flatter structures offer fewer points of direct accountability and tend to generate increased monitoring systems. Teachers are well aware of the move to increased classroom observation, detailed tracking systems, assessment at all levels of Scottish education and the ever greater dissection of exam results.

Delayered management structures, imposed from above and rapidly introduced, can cause more damage to a system and undermine the hoped for improvements predicted by the agents of change.

The views put forward by Ewan Aitken last week fail to note that no amount of reference to the teachers' agreement will guarantee the delivery of the changes he desires, as many teachers feel the new structures are being tagged on.

The full involvement and acceptance by all staff of new management structures must be sought and not imposed. How secure are many senior school managers in their understanding of the mainly unchallenged claims of 1990s management literature?

James Waugh Currie Edinburgh

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