There is one thing that many in the upper echelons of the educational establishment don’t get – that encouragement and support are more likely to get positive results than harsh, ill-informed criticism.
There have been far too many education ministers and school inspection chiefs who have made their reputation on being senselessly critical of schools and teachers.
Michael Gove is running true to form and, having left the reputation of teachers and examinations in tatters, he is now tearing into governors.
In a speech last week to academy heads he bewailed what he considers bad governance.
He acknowledged that there are ‘‘thousands of reasons to be grateful to those who give up time to help support school leaders in the work they do’’.
But he complained about the ‘‘failure to be rigorous about performance – a failure to challenge the head forensically’’ and governing bodies populated by ‘‘local worthies’’ seeking a ‘‘badge of status’’, some there because they represent a political constituency rather than having a ‘‘skill’’.
The reality for heads is that they are challenged ‘‘forensically’’ and ‘‘rigorously’’ every minute of every day by colleagues, parents, students and themselves. The idea that they are becalmed in some rose-scented bower needing a regular prod with a pitchfork, is laughable.
Michael Gove’s idea of a governing body is modelled on a company board. The language he uses is that of commercial organisations. This is an odd, if not unfortunate model, given that UK plc has hardly been a resounding success over the last decades.
There is a place for governors with ‘‘skills’’ in so far as such people can be a window onto a world that the school may not easily otherwise access. But for every such governor, there is a need for governors who are interested in children and people, who have the wisdom and experience to encourage, support, care for and cherish, when the school is surrounded by forensic sharks.
Local worthies, in so far as those are people noted for their goodness, may be just what governing bodies need. What they need from Michael Gove is recognition of the various styles of service they give. That might encourage, rather than discourage, potential new recruits.
* Sarah Evans, principal, King Edward VI High School for Girls.