How many of our leaders are mindless bureaucrats?

‘Process and Procedure are the last hiding place for people without the wit and the wisdom to do the job.’ (This has always been my favourite quote from The Office).

I have used this quote before in a blog and I have no hesitation in using it again. For this week I have been incensed by press reports of highly paid people doing things that totally ridicule the purpose and value of expensive education and high salaries. It seems the lure of hiding behind process and procedure is too great for some. Shame on them!

In the latest instance of this, I saw a press report that said a head teacher was asking youngsters aged 3 to sign an agreement saying they will not use transphobic language at school. In their home/school agreement, that had to be signed by each youngster on accepting a place at the school, they had to agree to “Be tolerant of others whatever their race, colour, gender, class, ability, physical challenge, faith, sexual orientation or lifestyle, and refrain from using racist, homophobic or transphobic language in school”. You can read the article here.

Our head teachers are supposed to be instrumental in delivering a fantastic education for our children. Our children, in due course, then become instrumental in driving forward our economy and developing our society.

If you agree with this supposition, then surely our head teachers should be leading the way with their vision, independent thinking, problem solving, leadership skills and developing the skills of the teachers they manage. They should be a powerful voice working both within their schools and also together across the UK to ensure our children’s potential can be achieved, our children are developed and stretched and our children have the very best educational start in life.

Instead what do we see, but huge numbers of head teachers paying more attention to:

  • Kissing the backside of Ofsted so they get a nice fat tick in the diversity box. ‘Transphobic!’ Had this head teacher engaged brain? Does she actually know how to engage brain? And shame on Ofsted for appearing to pursue its own tick box culture, rather then putting the needs of our children first.
  • Failing to manage staff assertively and appropriately in order to avoid the wrath of unions that think that protecting under performing teachers is more important than the education of our children. That is so short-sighted.
  • Cosying up to school governors and creating personal fiefdoms in order to achieve and maintain positions of power and influence. Perhaps instead they should focus on challenging the status quo rather than enjoying it.
  • Keeping on side with ridiculous demands made by councils, such as chopping down playground trees in case a rotten apply falls on someone’s head and makes them cry – can you find me a child who still knows how to climb a tree? We have whole generations missing out on key development skills, due to ‘risk aversion’ as a leadership trait being put on the highest pedestal by so many.
  • Tick box education that makes them look successful as heads, but as so many employers know, does the youngsters no favours when they venture into the world of work.

Quite frankly it is embarrassing to see intelligent, educated head teachers demean themselves and fail to grasp that today’s measurements are mostly meaningless and short term, and the true measure of their career achievements, or failures, will be seen decades down the line.

Our education used to be admired around the world. To a large degree it still is, but every single head teacher who chooses the easy process and procedure, tick box approach to leadership and education seriously undermines that. As do those who put their own desire for power and prestige ahead of the interests of their pupils.

In fact, whether in schools, businesses, charities or the public sector, every single lazy, self absorbed, risk averse, or mindless bureaucrat leader we have has the power to undermine the long term success and achievement of so many. Ironically though, it does appear that risk aversion and ability to tick boxes are clearly two of the most sought after competencies currently when recruiting for a leadership position. Who needs a leader with vision anyway? Surely that’s old hat? Perhaps it’s me that needs to shape up and fit in?

Thoughts, ideas and comments all welcomed of course.


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