Poorly trained middle-leaders are harming our schools

Workload is one of the evergreen hot topics in education. Teachers are – often rightly – voicing their dissatisfaction with the ever-increasing amount of work piled on their plates, which is affecting their ability to get on and teach effectively. Nicky Morgan has expressed an interest in this topic and is looking at ways of alleviating some of the pressures passed on to teachers from senior management. However, I’m not sure the problem stops there. We should take a better look at our middle management structures, to adjust what could potentially be a bottleneck in the system.

Many middle leaders have been promoted to the role because they are fantastic teachers. This is a problem in and of itself. Being a great teacher does not necessarily make one a good manager. The majority of middle managers in schools have progressed through the traditional route of School > University > PGCE and of course back into school, meaning they have no ‘real world’ experience to guide them in this more senior role. Too often, teachers profess that working in a school feels like being back in school, due to the way that staff are treated. This is because our middle managers usually have no industry experience, little to no management training and are sometimes promoted above their level of competence.

This becomes a problem when we’re asking for more top-down support, whether it be in behaviour management systems, simply staff morale or the all-important curriculum design. Your school could employ the best ‘superhead’ in the country, but if his/her messages, policies and enthusiasm are getting halted at a bottleneck of over-worked under-trained middle management, it’ll do no one any good. What was once a brilliant asset can instantly become a hindrance to the school, through no fault of their own.

There are a few ways we could improve this situation. Of course, we could provide better management training to those promoted to middle management roles, and/or encourage all teachers to spend some time in industry, to further expand their subject knowledge and real-world business skills. But another solution would be to simply create more admin roles in schools. If all schools had more administrative employees along the lines of office managers or civil servants, they could focus on monitoring targets and filling in spreadsheets, while the good teachers are left to do just that, teach. After all, isn’t that why we got into this job in the first place? To pass on knowledge and facilitate learning, not to tick boxes like bureaucrats.

Education
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