Listen to Business

“At our school we only want to put the children first.”

In the last month I have heard this stated twice at meetings, seemingly by well meaning and well intentioned heads of single schools.  And they obviously mean it.  The passion and clarity of thought is obvious.

The difficulty for me is that it usually follows a discussion about school funding, multi academy trusts, staffing structures or the like and can feel like an open challenge almost akin to saying, “You only seem to care about structures, money and systems; I care about the kids”

Of course, I can see how this happens.  Children and young people must be at the heart of our education system, our individual schools and our groups of schools, whatever we call them.  And to listen to minutes turn into hours as suited CEOs espouse grand theories can certainly be frustrating.  But it would be unfortunate and perhaps short-sighted to think that focusing on these three areas is a diversion or distraction from what we should be doing as educationalists. 

In fact, in my experience, business, like many professions, has much to teach us and can lead to some excellent ways of improving the school experience for our children and young people.

Take a simple idea like total quality management.  Popular in business as a model for aiming to ensure continuous improvement and popularised in areas like sport through the British Cycling Team.  Seen as a weapon to beat teachers with: no thanks.  However, as a concept it must be worth considering if we are in an educational setting where progress is one of our core measures of success.

Surely we owe it to our pupils to leave no stone unturned as we try and find ways of helping them succeed.  What is such a problem with evaluating and reflecting upon our work regularly and in detail to see how we can teach the best possible lesson or manage a challenging situation as effectively as possible?

It feels like it comes down to humility, another concept which is now being revisited in Business Schools around the world.  How can we be so blind or naïve to assume that what we do and have always done is the best.  Don’t we owe it to our children and young people to find the very best ways to support them; wherever they come from?

Written by:
Julian Dutnall
CEO, LIFE Education Trust

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