Mary-Jo Hill

17 Aug 2020
A u-turn of such magnitude takes some bravery. A show of trust in the teaching profession at last. Too little, too late?

The examination debacle: Applause where due but no standing ovation.

It is admirable to witness the ‘hands up’ signal of anyone that has made a mistake. The cost of this examination debacle could not have been higher but our current minister has become a greater man in my eyes for the U-turn on such a disaster. I have yet to witness the apologies of which I am sure there will be several, but the decision to make the better decision, although tardy, is sadly probably more to do with the potential power of the young electorate than the trust of the government in the hands of the teaching profession. A dangerous game with the up-coming voters of the nation. A dangerous game in the run-down to the start of term.

Decision-making in a crisis is what it is all about. Every small decision leads to a bigger one and every teacher and headteacher in the land has painstakingly used all their wisdom, experience and genuine know-how plus time on their teacher assessments. These assessments will not be ill-advised or non moderated. Very, very few will be inaccurate. The reliance on data over teacher integrity is a more worrying self-reflection on values held in central government. Over inflated egos perhaps, and very clear experience of power and inequality. But we are also in this dynamic relationship. Let’s not forget the role we play. Many a moment in this last term an honest headteacher will have admitted a plea that they just wanted to be told what to do. This tightrope of management and leadership is most at threat right now. We will all have a preferred side of the rope. Which is yours?

In the current examination season, momentarily we can breathe again, just momentarily from ludicrous reliance on past data rather than the real beings in front of us that have just experienced the most unusual set of circumstances. Seriously, can anyone, as a headteacher, recount their sleepless night on a snowy evening; debating whether the school should or could be shut and the enormous consequences this would have on the community, the pupils, the staff, the workforce? The alarming enormity with which this pandemic becomes littered with critical decision- making and the consequences behind it reminds me of Marty Byrd in Netflix Series Ozark. The profession has been trusted again. Hurray. I resist a cynical retort in the face of my admiration of being able to admit mistakes have been made.

And yet, I fear we will have plenty more to come. As a headteacher, what proactive strategies have you put in place to ensure you make the end of the week, the half term, the year? We know for a fact that as leader of your community, no-one else will be booking or providing that for you. Coaching, supervision, group supervision. I urge you to schedule now. It may be the best decision you make for you before the term officially starts again. Independent, professional and just for you.

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