Who should be responsible for Building Schools for the Future?
It ‘s a controversial point but are headteachers the right people to lead on their school’s development under BSF?
The daily life of a headteacher must be a difficult one: reporting requirements, staffing issues, delivery of a plethora of national and local initiatives, sick, missing and ‘problem’ children, maintenance, CPD, Governors, local authority and estates – to name just a few of the problems and challenges faced on a daily basis. Then someone decides whilst you have to keep this particular plane flying, that you have to start planning and building a new one – with the whole new gamut of changes, disruption and chaos that this will bring.
What’s more, you have to deliver this mammoth project – a process the like of which you’ve never encountered before – to a tight budget with significant time restrictions, and with little time for any real trialling or piloting. Add into the mix the fact that you’re dealing with a range of new external ‘suppliers’ – including architects, designers, developers, contactors and engineers – probably for the first time in your professional career. So, you’ve a lot on your plate and you are about to embark on probably the biggest project of your professional career – you have to retain your profile and that of your school and you need to deliver both a good current school despite the disruption, as well as a brand new building at the end of all of this.
As a head you know too well the shortcomings and issues with the current school, where the quick wins are that would alleviate immediate pressures and which might contribute to the improvement of the environment and the day-to-day activities within the school. With little time to complete the project, there may be some consultation but is it enough?
How can you work to engage stakeholders with a radical, transformative vision of a learning space that will embed the pedagogy and practices of a truly personalised educational future? The answer is: “With great difficulty”. It is accepted knowledge that our developed and internalised ‘habits of the mind’ – that are created through practices and approaches to pragmatic problem solving – can and do limit our ability to be innovative and think of alternative approaches outside of ‘what is known’. If you ask anyone ‘what will the school of the future look like?’, you will get a school to all intents and purposes. And the closer you are to the various machinations and day-to-day workings of the school you are, the more difficult it may be to see things another way – which could result in missed opportunities.
So, with this in mind, are headteachers the right people to lead in the development of visionary educational models of the future when much of their time is focussed on delivering against the needs of today?
Author: Tim Rudd, Flux, 18th February 2008