When your aim falls short of the objective

Confused by management speak? Phil Taylor translates the latest buzz words.


Whenever you write a policy (see below), you need a mixture of aims. Some must be blindingly obvious, while others should be utterly incomprehensible. Unless you include the blindingly obvious ones, some smart-arse inspector who has never administered a seafood retail facility will point out the omissions. The incomprehensible ones are there because, hey, we're the professionals. Some people, understandably, confuse aims and objectives (again, see below).


This is different from and more difficult than other kinds of management: kids don't do what they're supposed to, the Government changes the rules just as we think we might have mastered them, schools are falling down, the vandals are at the gates and often on the corridors, the media hate teachers, all the experienced teachers have retired, it's easy to prove that standards are falling and impossible to prove that you've helped someone to become a fulfilled human being. Oh, and there's OFSTED ...


Like aims (see above) only more so and more of. I can exclusively reveal that it has been scientifcally determined that the most efficient ratio of aims to objectives is around 1: 2.7.


You also need policies. You didn't until the politicians discovered education, but you certainly do now. Most people share them around, fortunately, so you can usually find those you haven't already got. This gives you a lot more time to do your job. You just need to make sure that your school's name appears at the top.


Everybody's doing it. And if you can produce a school development plan which interfaces with your school budget, you'll never have to work again. Nobody I have spoken to has ever seen one, let alonewritten one.


All documentation benefits from quality presentation, so make sure you include flow-diagrams and development cycles. There are many impressive ones around so don't waste time trying to create your own. You can probably import them from a clip-art disc. Aren't computers wonderful?


A word to use at every opportunity. Don't worry about its meaning - it has become completely meaningless - just use it, and encourage everyone else in your organisation to use it.


All school managers need these, just as all the great figures of human history had their targets; Robin Hood, William Tell. Would Moses still be remembered if he'd set out on his journey up Mount Sinai only seeking nine commandments? Would Shakespeare have become the most famous writer in the world had he not produced his well-known Playwriting Development Plan with its short-term targets (Move to London), medium-term (Write sonnets and plays) and long-term (Retire to Stratford)? Would Churchill have been victorious had he not spent all those nights in his bunker deciding on his target: To Win The War? (When? Before Christmas. Where? On the beaches. Resources? Blood sweat, tears, iron railings and home-grown vegetables. Success Criteria? Lots of dead Germans. Bananas on sale again. A baby boom.)


Like all leaders, you must have a vision. You remember John Major's vision of a classless society? It's pity he hasn't because it's about the only thing that will produce real improvements in schools.


If you must have a year planner, then for God's sake fill it in - it doesn't matter what you write on it. Just as a clear desk indicates you've got it all taped, a clear planner is the best known method of determining that its owner should be reserving a place on that pre-retirementseminar.

Phil Taylor is headteacher of South Manchester High School.

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