Totalitarianism of the curriculum managers

16th May 2003 at 01:00
Although it has always been possible to appoint principal teachers with thematic or whole school responsibilities, which has indeed been the norm in less den-sely populated areas of Scotland, removing the post of subject principal teacher may achieve a double whammy - narrowing and damaging the curriculum at the same time.

It really is quite astonishing that any headteacher would be prepared to take such a risk as is being run by the headteacher of Ross High (TESS, last week).

Then again, in truth, the risk is not so great. For a few years, until they retire, there will still exist a cadre of experienced PTs who will be available to take up the slack. However, the problem with all current proposals to restructure middle management is that in their managerialist obsession to delayer, they miss the wider point.

Within 10 years, huge numbers of secondary teachers will retire. How will local authorities, in a very competitive labour market, recruit and retain well qualified graduates from a supply which is increas-ingly mobile and seeking redemption from graduate debt?

The irony inherent in all these "whiz bang, up to date" visions is that they are very far from being new concepts. In essence they are all rehashes of the dreary old top-down management culture, betrayed by the Ross High term "curriculum managers" rather than principal teachers.

There is some irony in the fact that, however flawed it may be, the job-sizing toolkit now allows local authorities to appoint principal teachers with more flexible remits but without excluding the possibility of appointing the traditional subject specialist.

It is asserted by those in favour of "delayering" that PTs have not fulfilled expectations in terms of people management and quality assurance.

The reason for this is quite simple: most PTs spend most of their time doing the most important thing - teaching.

The teachers' agreement which followed the McCrone report was intended to be marked by a culture of inclusion and collegiality and a focus on teachers teaching. Instead, we seem to be entering an era of educational totalitarianism in which the recent past is rewritten and classroom teachers are to be exhorted to greater efforts by educational commissars who talk in Orwellian terms of "small teams of managers" bringing about "new opportunities".

Peter Wright District Secretary Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association West Lothian

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today