'Business leaders' to run schools?

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 01/22/2007 - 17:56

A government-commissioned report has recommended that schools be allowed to appoint business leaders in place of qualified head teachers. To run a school, you will no longer need to know anything about teaching, or about children - heaven forbid. A robust knowledge of profit-and-loss will do fine, perhaps with additional 'desirable qualities' of bashing the 'competition' (presumably meaning other schools), bullying staff and attacking unions.

This is what happens when you let accountants tell the government how to run public services. The accountancy company concerned - PricewaterhouseCoopers - also has no expertise in education, so why would it insist that head teachers should have? Its area of expertise is in promoting the interests of big business to government. It's getting top marks for that.

Workers in other public services will be familiar with this nonsense. Fat cats have moved with seeming ease from the chief executive's chair at a private company to a local Council or an NHS Trust or a public transport provider, as though 'management' is a self-contained skill that bears no relation whatsoever to the people or the service you are managing.

A classic example would be Gerald Corbett, who went from the business world of Dixons and Grand Metropolitan to four disastrous years in charge of Railtrack, then returned to the commercial retail sector at Woolworths. When he took over at Railtrack in 1997, he told the media without apology that he had "no experience whatever of the [rail] industry." It showed. Three months later, the Southall crash killed seven people. Two years after that, 31 people died at Paddington. A year later, four people died at Hatfield, and Corbett finally had the good grace to resign - but not without a £1.4m golden handshake.

Perhaps that lack of knowledge and experience of railways had been a problem after all. Hey, perhaps he could take over your local school.

Apparently, Schools Minister Jim Knight welcomed the report, saying "modern schools need modern leaders". What kind of bland, vacuous, meaningless comment is that?! Business leaders have been around since the birth of capitalism - they pre-date state education - so in what sense they are "modern leaders" defeats me.

The National Union of Teachers has opposed the report's proposal, so let's hope we see effective action to defeat it should the government take up this nutty idea.

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