Teaching an Old Board New Tricks

What is the number one indicator of school performance? Teachers.

So why is it that less than 15% of UK school boards include an educator in their ranks? Why are school leaders missing out on key insights that could put their school on top for years to come? And what can be done about it?

Go directly to the source

We all agree: successful boards require an understanding of the industry. Whether that context is brought by one board member or the majority, the insights provided by context will forever contribute to winning strategy.

What hope, then, do the ±85% schools without this context have when it comes to planning for the future?

Senior advisor of the Academia Business College Pim Pollen and I have spent the last few months investigating the insights and professional education of teachers around the globe. Involving nearly 75,000 teachers and support staff from countries such as The Netherlands, South Africa, Italy and Turkey, we looked to understand how teachers currently feel about the ‘service’ they can deliver, and their thoughts on education in the 21st century.

The results – published in Dialogue Review – are a great starting point for successful strategic discussion in school boards which lack any experienced educators. But they are general and international. So, how can school boards obtain these valuable insights for themselves, about their schools, specifically?

Winning strategy requires bridging the divide

A phenomenon common in the corporate world, it’s well recognised that there is a significant chasm between board members and ‘everyone else’ in the business.

By and large, this trend holds true in schools, too, with most board members very rarely finding themselves open to listening to school staff. Successful school boards, it seems,  are going to need to bring the mountain to Muhammad.

My research with Alex Hill, Liz Mellon and Jules Goddard (as seen in Harvard Business Review) has identified one guaranteed approach to improving the relationship between board and educator: Hire an ‘Architect’.

Much like connecting two tiers in the real-world, ‘Architects’ will forever close the gap between the educator and the school board. Thriving in the face of long-term continuous improvement, Architects are able to quietly redesign their schools and systems to create the right environment for governors, teachers, students and the community.

two man and two woman standing on green grass field
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Insights from educators, shared and incorporated on equal terms, coupled with Architect leaders who are willing to bridge the divide and guide teachers to their seats in the school boardroom, is arguably the only strategy that will allow schools to reach their full potential.

I hope that the results of our study, evidence of how valuable teachers’ experience can be in strategic planning, will provide a solid foundation for such situations.

Ultimately, however, the onus is on school leaders to empower their educators to come forward with the insights that will make their school a successful education centre for the future.

by Prof Ben Laker

Curious about school development and the role of school leaders, broadly? Check out these research highlights in Harvard Business Review and Dialogue Review or leave a comment below

 https://hbr.org/2017/09/research-how-the-best-school-leaders-create-enduring-change

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