HomeOpinion & AnalysisNot a principal, but principles

Not a principal, but principles

Tim Middleton

We do already have driverless cars (sometimes described as a self-driving car or an autonomous vehicle), which are said to be capable of moving safely through busy traffic with little or no human input. We also have a number of machines that have taken the place of humans, like self-service checkouts in supermarkets and ticket distributors for bus, rail or air tickets. More and more robots are taking over from humans; it is said that the role of a pharmacist, lawyer, astronaut, even soldier and babysitter can be done better by a robot than a human. So, let us consider for a moment what chance there is of a school not being led by a human.

It should be said right at the outset that a school should not be led by a human! No-one should lead a school! That may surprise a few folk while others may have suspected this to be the case all along! Some people might look at such a statement and conclude that it is arguing for a team to lead a school, not an individual. Many schools do have a senior management team but do they have a leadership team? But if they do, even within the leadership or management team, is there not one who does do the leading, who does make the final decisions? Collective intelligence and responsibility may be on the increase in different circles, not least in sport, where coaches speak of the senior players in their team offering the leadership required. We might wish in fact to argue that the board of governors or the parents committee, therefore, runs a school collectively; they are the ones who make the ultimate decisions. No! Let it be said again: No-one should lead a school.

What possible grounds can be made for even suggesting such an apparently preposterous idea? The simple reason is that a school should not be run by a human because people change, one head follows another head, and problems arise as a result. One head will lead the school in one particular direction or style only for the successor to lead it in a totally different manner and direction. Leaders will come and go but the school must stay the same. boards of governors or parents committee might come and go and seek to put their own personal, subjective stamp on how the school is led. A school cannot keep switching directions, just because a human wants to flick the switch.

So, are we suggesting that the solution is that a robot must lead the school? Will artificial intelligence be able to step in and lead a school? If a human should not do so, what hope is there of a robot doing it? No, we are not saying a robot should lead a school, but we persist in arguing that no one should lead a school. So let us cut to the chase: a human must not lead a school but the school vision and mission should lead the school. The vision and mission and values are why the school is in existence and why it must remain in existence. The vision and mission and values set out clearly the direction the school is meant to go. People do not lead a school; the vision, mission and values do. The people only interpret and apply the vision, mission and values into practical action for the school at that time.

It becomes all the more important that the vision, mission and values are clearly articulated and communicated so that they can be implemented and followed correctly and transparently. The vision, mission and values are what brought the school into existence; they are what will continue to ensure its relevance and significance. Each school needs a strong vision, mission and set of values if the school is to be successful. Each school needs to be constantly referencing and applying its ision, mission and values if it is going to be providing the right leadership for the school and for all those within the school. It is not saying a robotic, programmed approach is required but it ensures the correct leadership is maintained. heads and parents can come and go, with all their differences, but the school continues and flourishes because what leads the school is constant — its ision, mission and values. Every decision that has to be made has to be made in the light of the ision, mission and values. A school, then, should not be led by a Principal but by principles. A school must be run by the principles established in its constitution, its ision, mission and values, its logo. Just as we have a situation where cars are not being driven by a human, so we must reach the point where a school is not being driven by a human. So says a human, not a robot! Step forward ision, mission and values.

Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.

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