The Matthew effect is well known in education circles. It is the principle that with regard to knowledge, the more you have, the more easily you gain more. The rich get richer and the poor poorer:
‘For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.’ (Matthew 25:29)
There is another effect which is vital to grasp if we wish to understand the ills of modern education. This could be called the Luke effect, whereby management lay ever greater burdens upon rank and file teachers, and do nothing to ease the burdens themselves:
‘And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers, for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.’ (Luke 11:46)
Classroom teachers are the most important people in a school, because they are the ones actually delivering the learning. If they are not effective, the school will not be effective, no matter how many super heads the school recruits with shiny new visions for transformation.
The work of management should be focused on facilitating what classroom teachers do, by making their working circumstances as conducive as possible to learning. Centrally managed and staffed detention systems; manageable marking policies focused on learning, not bureaucratic requirements; minimal, short meetings that are well focused and scheduled during the school day, not at the end of an exhausting day of teaching: all of these things are possible for any management team to achieve, but how common are they?
Instead of applying these simple and practical steps, managers tend to point the finger elsewhere: to Ofsted, to funding cuts, to ordinary staff themselves.
One cause of the increasing burdens placed on teachers must be the proliferation of managers, all with their own little empire to build. As long as managers do not see their role as serving ordinary teachers, it’s safe to say that the fewer managers, the better. We’ve all experienced the way a school rolls smoothly on while senior leaders go and do a day of strategic planning. Somehow, no one notices their absence, unless it’s by the palpable sense of relief that no one will be putting them under surveillance, at least for one day.
A manager is either a servant or a parasite. If he won’t be the former, he’ll end up as the latter.
Woe unto you, ye managers, for ye lade teachers with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.