Thought Of The Week: Is The Welsh Psyche To Blame For Failings In Education?

May 2nd, 2014

Thought Of The Week: Is The Welsh Psyche To Blame For Failings In Education?

I recently read an article in Wales Online, which had the title: "Welsh psyche to blame for failings in education, says head of leading independent school". Understandably, the article generated a little bit of controversy.

The article scrutinises the performance of school children in Wales and highlights the need for a shake up of education, which is coming from the Welsh Government. It seems that the core of the WG strategy is the sharing of best practice by teachers, but will this approach get the best results and dramatically improve the standard of education in Wales?

I've experienced a number of scenarios, when huge amounts of resources and finance are dedicated to identifying 'best practices'. This process often involves a number of individuals pitching in what they feel are the best way of doing something. The results of which, has often been little, in terms of outcomes.

There will likely be much PR hype, along with great enthusiasm and talk of a 'single Wales' approach for education - but based on past attempts at 'radical shake ups', I feel that we would not be cynical to assume that we may be a little disappointed at the results of this reform.

Let me tell you why I think this. I have a close friend who happens to be an Educational Psychologist working in the Valleys (now retired). As I am sure you are aware Educational Psychologists work with children who are struggling in education for a variety of reasons. To cut to the chase, the main problem that she faced was not in providing support for the children, but in trying to create a supportive atmosphere for them when they got home. An impoverished context for a child at home is no easy thing for a youngster to overcome. This is very difficult, if not impossible for schools to influence.

The central problem with the idea of sharing 'best practice' is that unless schools are properly led and managed, best practice is extremely unlikely to flourish. In other words, best practice is likely to be ineffective on its own. A poor context organisationally for a teacher is not an easy thing to overcome, in the same way that a poor home environment is not an easy thing for a child to overcome.

It's great that the Welsh Government are looking to radically shake up the education system and to articulate this in a best practice framework, but it will likely be no more effective than a 'Dieting Information' leaflet distributed by the NHS.

In the end best practice, in any organisation, is articulated and lead from the top of that institution. It becomes something that everybody in the organisation lives and breathes.

I believe that education reform can only be achieved by Head Teachers and leaders in education, who can build and develop excellent management teams, who in turn develop and support excellence in the classroom.

As always, I would be very interested to get your views on this topic. Please leave your comment below. You can also read the full Wales Online article here.

Simon Wiltshire

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