It seems they won’t…

After my previous post, I was not intending to comment on the recent speech made by head teacher Steve Fairclough regarding the desirability of creating a fear-culture in schools. I found his comments so utterly beyond the pale that I first suspected he had been misreported, but it seems not.

Mr. Fairclough’s comments only serve to reinforce everything I have previously said about the tenuous grasp some managers seem to have on reality. I’m not sure such views really deserve a considered response, so I will restrict myself to the following points:

  1. The teaching profession is not some kind of closed monastic order in which the principal has unfettered claim over every aspect of his subordinates’ lives.
  2. No matter how they discharge their job, it is unreasonable deliberately to bring people’s private lives in any workplace issues.
  3. It is even more unreasonable knowingly to take actions that will affect the families of teachers, who have nothing to do with any workplace issue.
  4. Teachers do not “ruin the lives of children” – unless we are talking about unethical or illegal behaviour. At worst they may fail to enhance pupils’ lives but they do not generally destroy what pupils already have or are. What children might be is so unknowable as to be inadmissible.
  5. It is not possible fairly to link performance and reward to conditions that are neither objective nor proven – which includes almost all teaching practices.
  6. Creating a climate of fear in a school doesn’t only affect so-called bad teachers. Good ones by definition will worry too and fearful people do not perform well. This  risks becoming a self-fulfilling policy.
  7. Performance-related pay has been shown to have little or no effect on student outcomes.
  8. Schools are not exempt from legislation relating to workplace bullying and harassment; the line between justifiable procedures and victimisation is notoriously thin. There is nothing that says this cannot apply to head teachers – even those who seem to consider themselves immortal.

Steve Fairclough claims to be a champion for improving young people’s lives, but he seems utterly indifferent to ruining the lives of others in the process. This arrogance is not the principled position he seems to think; if accurate, it is one of the worst examples of management delusion I have encountered.

I suspect that many teachers will now not even consider working with Mr. Fairclough; a fine way to preserve and enhance the human capital that he, like any other head teacher needs in order to function.


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