Too tight a rein

20th April 2001 at 01:00
The rhetoric comes easily, reality is more of a challenge. If extending professional autonomy is to be more than fine-sounding official verbiage, messages like those from secondary headteachers in Aberdeen will have to be taken on board. A survey taken just before and after local government reorganisation (page three) shows that devolved management stopped short of a real transfer of power. The local authority still ruled the roost while having passed over to schools responsibility for nuts, bolts and time-consuming chores.

The result has been shoulder-shrugging cynicism of the kind normally found among disaffected longserving denizens of the staffroom rather than professional leaders. If creativity and flexibility of mind are discouraged in school management, what hope is there for instilling innovation at class teacher level?The likely outcome is a reassertion of traditional heavyhanded management from the head's study. It may be that tradition which has prompted some heads not to wait for local negotiations on the McCrone settlement and to impose their own interpretations of how teachers should spend their 35 hours.

The 32 councils were created several years ago. Most have tried at headquarters level to create new structures that dispense with age-old departmental boundaries. Optimistically, all of them are working to the agenda that underpinned local government reform: councils set the policy framework, allocate resources and create a monitoring framework while allowing schools freedom to run their own affairs. But teachers, including headteachers, will need convincing that the depressing Aberdeen findings can be relegated to the past.

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