Poo in the playground …

Visiting one of my favourite state schools in Edinburgh on Thursday, I came into the school reception to find the Headteacher rushing out past me. ‘With you in a minute!’, she gasped energetically, with only a hint of a sigh in her voice, ‘I’ve been told there is a poo in the playground …’. I didn’t dare ask what kind of faecal matter she was talking about, and it didn’t really seem appropriate to enquire afterwards how exactly she had resolved the situation, but it did make me think one important thought …

And that is … here we have a highly qualified, highly experienced professional, charged with arguably one of the most important tasks that society requires of its citizens. She was not, however, spending time, for example, challenging her teachers to draw on the latest research into effective learning and knowledge transfer, or planning evidence-based interventions to support the development of individual students, to ‘get it right for every child’, or feeding into national and international policy through active action research – all of which would have a powerful impact on the future of the young proto-citizens within her sphere of influence.

No – she was dealing with an issue which any other CEO of a similar sized organisation – particularly one with such a clear, strong, vision for success and the public good – would find fairly unimaginable to have to manage, not because they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, or because they would find it beneath them (because every great CEO will always roll up their sleeves when the need arises), but because they would have resources and a team on hand to support them in using their time for what they only are best at, for the better functioning of the organisation … and in case, the young people who will actually, literally, be the future of the world.

When are we going to get this right? When are we, as a society, going to realise that we have to invest in schools and their leaders, and that we will get out of them much, much more when we liberate them from tasks and expectations which hold them back from making the real difference in children’s lives, and in the strategic direction of schools, of which they are more, more than capable.

I encounter impressive, engaged, inquisitive, driven, determined, focused and ambitious school leaders almost every single day in my work, and my engagement with them motivates me to want to support them in their work. So …  my question for today is this – how can we celebrate, encourage and support them better?

And I cannot really believe that this is through providing them with guidance on how to deal with poo in a playground …

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