Too many teachers have no respect for authority, warns chief schools inspector

The problem is hampering schools’ attempts to improve standards, says Sir Michael Wilshaw

Education Editor

Too many teachers have no respect for authority and are hampering schools’ attempts to improve standards, chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said on Thursday.

He warned of headteachers being “undermined by a pervasive resentment of all things managerial” by some of their teaching staff.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Westminster Education Forum in London, he added: “Some teachers simply will not accept that a school isn’t a collective but an organisation with clear hierarchies and separate duties.”

In the 1970’s and 80’s, some councils did not care about appointing decent headteachers to run schools - and actively undermined those who were prepared to speak out against their vested interest, he added.

“Even today, too many teachers still think that school leaders do not have the right to tell them how to teach or what to do,” he said.

“The staff room, in their minds, is just as capable of deciding the direction a school should take as the senior leadership team.”

Sir Michael also warned heads not to try and “curry favour” with their staff, adding:  “What’s worse (is) far too many school leaders seem to believe that they don’t have a right to manage, either. 

“They worry constantly about staff reaction. ...  They seem to think they cannot act without their employees’ approval.

“Yes, you should consult with staff,  Yes, you should explain.  But never confuse consultation. We must take the staff with us at all costs, the misguided head would say.

“No, you mustn’t.  Not if it means leaving the children behind.”

Heads must come up with a vision for their school which is more than “a natty slogan” which is put on its stationary and parroted by all the staff.

“It’s pointless concocting grand plans if the school playground is in a mess, uniforms are slovenly, staff are too casual, children pay more attention to their mobile phones than to the teachers and the school reception has all the charm of the check-in desk at Ryanair.”

Teachers, he argued, should also be bold enough to exert their authority and remind pupils who is in charge.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong in my view in saying to youngsters ‘do as I ask, because I am the adult - I am older than you - I know more than you and, by the way, I am in authority over you,” he said.

“Good schools are staffed by people, including newly qualified teachers and those in the early years of the profession, who feel confident that they can challenge children to behave and achieve without endless negotiation and sterile argument.

“If, when I was a head, I saw a member of staff turning a blind eye to a child dropping litter in the playground, I’d first have a stern word to say to the child - and get them to pick the litter up. But then I would have gone back to the teacher to ask why he or she let it happen.”

Meanwhile, the Government last night announced an £10 million fund - to help develop the school leaders of the  future from those who have shown potential in some of the country’s most disadvantaged schools.

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